Idiopathic Chronic Active Hepatitis: A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Dilemma

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A 56-year-old Saudi male was admitted with abnormal liver chemistry values and a >5-month history of lethargy, malaise, anorexia, and jaundice. Extensive investigations did not establish an etiological diagnosis. Liver histology confirmed the clinically apparent aggressive hepatitis with fibrosis but gave no clue to its etiology. The patient was empirically treated with a-interferon for presumed non-A, non-B hepatitis, with clinical and biochemical worsening. Interferon was discontinued and the patient was started on immunosuppression. Dramatic clinical and biochemical improvement occurred, with normalization of the liver chemistry within 4 weeks. The patient has been followed-up for 12 months and has not suffered a relapse. This case highlights the etiological heterogenicity of chronic active hepatitis. The entity of autoimmune chronic active hepatitis is unclear, and perhaps it is better defined as steroid-responsive hepatitis. Steroid-responsive hepatitis should always be considered in cases of cryptogenic chronic active hepatitis.

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