Passive immunization with hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) is important to prevent hepatitis B virus (HBV) recurrence after orthotopic liver transplantation for chronic HBV cirrhosis. Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) dosing regimens have been poorly defined, utilize numerous routes of administration, and result in a high rate of HBV relapse and mortality. Twenty-five of 27 (93%) patients transplanted (four retransplants) for chronic HBV cirrhosis show no evidence of recurrent HBV (range, 2-55 months). Anti-HBs titers necessary to minimize the risk of hepatitis B surface antigen detectability were >500 IU/L for days 0 to 7, >250 IU/L for days 8 to 90, and >100 IU/L thereafter. Pretransplant HBV E antigen (HBeAg)-positive patients required more HBIG to achieve these goals than HBeAg-negative individuals. The elimination of anti-HBs changed continually for the initial 3 posttransplant months. The anti-HBs half-life increased from 0.7 days to 14.1 days. Anti-HBs elimination was significantly different in HBeAg+ and HBeAg- patients for the first week, but was subsequently indistinguishable after week 1. After 3 months, the half-life was statistically less for HBeAg+ patients, but the difference did not influence the clinical treatment regimens. Quantitative hepatitis B DNA levels did not predict the amount of HBIG required. HBV recurrence after orthotopic liver transplantation can be reduced by aggressive passive immunization. Pharmacokinetic analysis of anti- HBs elimination can improve immunoglobulin therapy and prevent recurrence of clinical hepatitis.