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Sustained remission after corticosteroid therapy for type 1 autoimmune hepatitis: a retrospective analysis.

Autoimmune hepatitis commonly relapses after corticosteroid therapy, and long-term management strategies have been proposed based on the premise that repeated relapses after drug withdrawal are inevitable. Our goal was to determine the frequency that remission can be sustained after its induction and termination of therapy. A total of 107 patients who had entered remission on conventional regimens were assessed for sustained remission after initial treatment and after relapse and re-treatment. Re-treatment strategies included conventional regimens and long-term maintenance schedules. Twenty-two patients (21%) achieved a sustained remission after initial treatment, and 24 of 85 patients who relapsed and were re-treated (28%) had a similar outcome. The probability of a sustained remission was 47% after 10 years of follow-up. Patients who sustained remission after initial therapy were distinguished only by a lower serum gamma-globulin level at entry. Conventional re-treatment schedules after relapse were able to induce a sustained remission more commonly then long-term maintenance schedules (59% vs. 12%, P =.00002). In conclusion, patients who respond to initial corticosteroid therapy can achieve a sustained remission after treatment withdrawal or after relapse and re-treatment. All patients are candidates for this outcome, and withdrawal of medication, even during maintenance schedules, is necessary to assess its likelihood.

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