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Lamivudine is highly effective in suppressing hepatitis B viral replication and hepatic necroinflammatory activity. The potential for recovery of hepatic decompensation in patients with chronic hepatitis B infection treated with lamivudine has not been established. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of lamivudine treatment in severely decompensated cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis B.Thirteen consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis B infection, Child's-Pugh-Turcotte (CPT) score of ≥10 (median score=11) and detectable circulating hepatitis B DNA (range 15 to 9634 pg/ml) were included and treated with lamivudine 150 mg once daily. Hepatitis B envelope antigen (HBeAg) was positive in 9 of 13 patients pre-treatment.Two patients underwent liver transplantation at 4 and 6 weeks after starting lamivudine treatment. The remaining 11 patients were followed for a mean of 17.5 months without liver transplantation (range 3 to 39 months). Significant improvement of liver function, defined as a decrease in CPT score of ≥3, was observed in 9 of 13 patients (69%). In five patients, CPT score improved to <7 and they were placed on the inactive status (UNOS status 7) for liver transplantation. Hepatitis B DNA remained negative in all except one patient who developed breakthrough viral replication 12 months after starting lamivudine treatment, while maintaining stable liver function. Three of seven HBeAg-positive patients who did not undergo liver transplantation lost HBeAg during follow-up, but none had sustained seroconversion to hepatitis B e antibody.Lamivudine appears highly effective in reversing severe hepatic decompensation due to replicating hepatitis B infection.