Background. Fibrosis progression varies markedly in hepatitis C virus (HCV)–infected individuals. We investigated factors that influence fibrosis progression in chronic HCV infection.
Methods. HCV-infected patients who underwent at least 2 liver biopsies were included in this study. Associations between fibrosis progression and epidemiologic, virologic, and disease-associated factors were analyzed using logistic regression and multistate Markov modeling.
Results. We analyzed 936 biopsy specimens obtained from 378 individuals. Mean age (±SD) at first biopsy was 48.3 ± 9.3 years, 59.3% of patients were male, 59.9% were white, and 86.7% were infected with HCV genotype 1. Fibrosis progression and cirrhosis occurred in 57.4% and 5.8%, respectively. Fibrosis progression between the first and last biopsies was associated with lower fibrosis in the first biopsy specimen (P < .001) and with the occurrence of at least 1 flare in the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level (>200 U/L; P = .007). We found the highest fibrosis progression rate between stages 0 and 1 and the lowest between stages 2 and 3. Increased necroinflammation and higher ALT level were associated with faster progression. HCV genotype 3–infected patients were more likely to progress to cirrhosis (P < .001).
Conclusions. Fibrosis progression in HCV is not linear but varies according to stage, with the highest progression in patients with the lowest fibrosis severity. Patients who experience flares in the ALT level are also more likely to progress.