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Severe alcoholic hepatitis in Japan: prognosis and therapy.

BACKGROUND: Recently, the incidence of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) has been increasing in Japan; this associated with an increase in alcoholic beverage consumption. Multiple organ failures are frequently observed in patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis (AH), most of whom have a poor prognosis similar to fulminant hepatitis; as well numbers of severe AH patients appear to be increasing. Although prognosis of fulminant hepatitis in Japan has been recently improved by intensive treatments such as plasma exchange (PE) that of severe AH has not changed. The objective of this study was to determine whether there was any factor that could determine the prognosis of severe AH.

METHODS: We carried out nation-wide survey by asking hospitals certified by the Japanese Society of Gastroenterology and hospitals related to ours hospital for the current status of patients seen with severe alcoholic hepatitis since 1998. We investigated correlations between various factors including blood laboratory data, presence of other organ failure, and prognosis.

RESULTS: Mortality of patients with severe AH was high (66.4%). The ratio of female patients with severe AH (26%) was higher than that for other ALD (approximately 10%). Mean age was older (Alive: 44 +/- 11; Dead: 50 +/- 11 years old), white blood cell (WBC) counts were higher (11600 +/- 5200; 21800 +/- 13400/microl), red blood cell counts were lower (320 +/- 95; 265 +/- 72 x 10/microl) and prothrombin time (PT) was prolonged (36.2 +/- 10.4; 29.1 +/- 9.4%, respectively) in patients who had died than in patients who had survived. However, as all differences diminished after carrying out PE, we analyzed data in patients without PE. The results were similar to those in all patients. Prevalence of infection, gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) was higher in patients who had died. Although intensive treatments such as PE, hemodialysis, and anticoagulation therapy did not change the prognosis of severe AH, PE improved the prognosis of patients without either GI bleeding or DIC. WBC counts were also slightly higher in patients who had died after carrying out PE. Two cases had been cured by granulocytapheresis (GCAP) CONCLUSIONS: PE can compensate for and reduce the risk due to prolonged PT in patients with severe AH. These results suggest that the patients with markedly elevated WBC counts, prolonged PT, or anemia should, if possible, be treated at an earlier stage with an intensive treatment such as PE, hemodialysis, or anticoagulation therapy before infection, GI bleeding or DIC occurs. Further, GCAP might be useful for severe AH patients with higher WBC counts.

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