We evaluated the influence of cryoglobulinemic syndrome (CS) on the outcome of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in a 15-year prospective study. We assessed a cohort of 950 chronically HCV-infected patients, collected from the beginning of 1990 to the end of 2010. All patients had received a liver histologic diagnosis. Mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) was determined in 246 patients (25.8%), of whom 184 also had CS. They were assessed every 3 months for 15 years, at least; 141 patients with CS and 601 without MC completed the study.
No spontaneous clearance of cryoglobulins was noted. Type II to type III spontaneous switching was ascertained in 1.6% (0.08%/yr) patients. The estimated progression rate of liver fibrosis was lower in CS(+) than in MC(−) patients (p < 0.05). The 15-year cumulative probability of developing cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma was higher in MC(−) than in CS(+) patients (24.9% vs. 14.2%, p < 0.005 and 20.3% vs. 7.5%, p = 0.003, respectively). Renal insufficiency, neurologic impairment, or B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma were significantly more frequent in CS(+) than in MC(−) patients (32.6% vs. 3%, p < 0.0001; 31.2% vs. 4.8%, p < 0.0001; and 15% vs. 7.1%, p = 0.003, respectively). However, in spite of different morbidity features and causes of death, the 15-year survival rate was similar in the 2 groups (70.2% vs. 71.7%). Antiviral therapy had an undisputable impact on patient outcome.
This 15-year prospective cohort study shows that, although CS has no influence on the overall survival of HCV-infected patients, it significantly modifies the natural history of chronically HCV-infected patients.