Autoimmune Liver Disease in Children with Sickle Cell Disease

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To assess the incidence, clinical features, and outcome of autoimmune liver disease (AILD) in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD).

Study design

Single center retrospective review of patients with SCD with AILD referred between 1999 and 2015.


Thirteen of 77 (17%) patients with SCD with hepatic dysfunction were diagnosed with AILD (median age 11, range, 3.4–16 years) with a female preponderance (77%). Acute hepatitis and insidious onset were the commonest presentations. Two patients (15%) presented with acute liver failure. In 2 patients (15%), parvovirus B19-induced transient red cell aplasia preceded the diagnosis of AILD. All patients were positive for antinuclear and/or smooth muscle autoantibodies. Six of 12 patients (50%) had cholangiopathy on cholangiogram suggesting autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis (ASC). Liver biopsy, performed in 11 patients without complications, showed interface hepatitis in 90%. Patients with AILD were treated with standard immunosuppression. After a median follow-up of 3.8 years (range, 0.2–14.3), 10 patients are alive (1 was transplanted 6.4 years after diagnosis); 2 are lost to follow-up; 1 died of subdural hemorrhage before starting treatment for AILD. Five (42%) achieved full and 4 (33%) partial biochemical remission. Ulcerative colitis, present in 4 patients (2 male patients, 3 with ASC) was diagnosed in 2 patients before and in 2 patients after the diagnosis of AILD.


AILD is not uncommon in patients with SCD, affecting mainly female patients and responding satisfactorily to immunosuppressive treatment. Liver biopsy is helpful in confirming the diagnosis and can be safely performed in the absence of acute vaso-occlusive sickling episodes. Ulcerative colitis is common in the presence of ASC.

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