Effect of hepatitis B and C virus infections on the natural history of compensated cirrhosis: a cohort study of 297 patients

Giovanna Fattovich, Maurizio Pantalena, Irene Zagni, Giuseppe Realdi, Solko W Schalm, Erik Christensen et al.
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2002, 97 (11): 2886-95

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to compare the prognosis of patients with hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive and those with antibody to hepatitis C (anti-HCV) positive cirrhosis.

METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of 297 untreated Western European patients with compensated viral cirrhosis (Child class A; 161 patients with hepatitis type B and 136 with type C) who were followed for a median period of 6.6 yr.

RESULTS: At diagnosis, median age was lower (48 vs 58 yr, respectively) in HBsAg-positive cirrhotic patients. The Kaplan-Meier 5-yr probability of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was 9% and 10% in HBsAg and anti-HCV-positive cirrhotic patients, respectively; the corresponding figures for decompensation unrelated to HCC were 16% and 28% and for survival were 86% and 84%, respectively. After adjustment for clinical and serological differences at baseline, the relative risk (95% CI) for HCC, decompensation and mortality was 1.53 (CI = 0.81-2.89), 0.59 (CI = 0.37-0.94), and 1.44 (CI = 0.85-2.46) respectively, in HBsAg-positive patients compared with anti-HCV-positive cirrhotic patients. Among HBsAg-positive cirrhotic patients, the relative risk for HCC, decompensation, and mortality was 0.89 (CI = 0.30-2.63), 4.05 (CI = 1.09-15.1), and 5.9 (CI = 1.64-21.3), respectively, in HBV-DNA positive (HBeAg positive or negative) compared with HBV-DNA negative (HBeAg negative) patients at entry.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with HBV infection may present with cirrhosis about 10 yr earlier than those with HCV infection. HCV infection tends to be associated with a higher risk of decompensation, but these data should take into consideration the heterogeneity of HBV-related cirrhosis in terms of viremia levels and risk of hepatic failure. Survival shows no significant differences according to HBV or HCV etiology in Western European cirrhotic patients.

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