A twenty-year history of alveolar echinococcosis: analysis of a series of 117 patients from eastern France

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ObjectivesAlveolar echinococcosis of the liver is a very rare and severe parasitic disease due to the growth of the larva ofEchinococcus multilocularis. The aim of this paper was to describe a 20-year study of the epidemiological, clinical and therapeutic aspects of alveolar echinococcosis in eastern France.DesignOne hundred and seventeen consecutive cases, diagnosed and followed in our liver unit, were studied from 1972 to 1993.MethodsData from 85 patients followed since 1983 (period B) were compared to data from a first series of 32 patients (period A) collected from 1972 to 1982; 1983 was chosen as the cut-off year because of the numerous changes that occurred in the diagnosis, follow-up and treatment of the disease at this time, in particular the introduction of parasitostatic benzimidazoles.ResultsThe results of patient follow-up were evaluated in December 1997. The cumulative prevalence was 2.5 per 100 000 persons in period A whereas it reached 6.6 per 100 000 in period B. The annual incidence in period B was 7.3 on average, compared with 2.7 in period A. Twenty-nine per cent of patients from period B were asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis compared with 10% in period A. This change was correlated with less advanced liver lesions, and was related to the extensive use of abdominal ultrasound, and from 1987, serological screening. Curative resections were performed in 24% of the cases in period B versus only 3% in period A. From 1986, liver transplantations were performed in eight patients from period A and 13 patients from period B. In period B, palliative surgery was frequently replaced by radiological non-operative procedures to treat abscesses and jaundice. From 1982, 73 patients received benzimidazoles for a period of time ranging from 4 to 138 months. Stabilization of the lesions was observed in two-thirds of the patients. Episodes of jaundice or digestive haemorrhage due to portal hypertension were 31.5 and 11 times less frequent respectively in patients from period B compared with period A. Actuarial survival at 5 years improved from 67% in period A to 88% in period B in patients of similar age.ConclusionsRadical changes in the diagnosis and the management of alveolar echinococcosis have occurred during the last decade. Together they have contributed to an improvement in the status of the patients affected by this very severe parasitic disease.Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol12:327-336 © 2000 Lippincott Williams & WilkinsEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2000, 12:327-336

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