Long-term follow-up of patients with chronic hepatitis C treated with α-interferon and ribavirin antiviral therapy: clinical and fibrosis impact of treatment response

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Abstract

Background and goals

The slow progression of chronic hepatitis C (CHC) infection requires long observation periods to detect clinical changes. We compare the incidence of clinical events, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), overall mortality, liver-related mortality, and fibrosis progression between patients with a sustained virological response (SVR) and nonresponders (NR) after a 13-year follow-up period.

Study

One hundred and eighty-two CHC patients, who received interferon and ribavirin treatment between 1996 and 2000, were included. Clinical events were evaluated during follow-up. At the end of follow-up, transient elastography was used to assess fibrosis progression.

Results

Of the 182 patients, 46.7% (n=85) achieved an SVR. Twenty-seven patients developed hepatic decompensation (one SVR) and 15 developed HCC (three SVR). Twenty-nine patients died (eight SVR). Twelve of the 29 deaths were liver related (two SVR). Independent factors associated with hepatic decompensation were NR to treatment [hazard ratio (HR)=23.35; 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.90–189.25; P=0.003], advanced fibrosis at baseline (HR=9.11; 95% CI: 4.13–20.09), and treatment delay after diagnosis (HR=1.02; 95% CI: 1.00–1.03; P=0.012). Only the latter two were associated with HCC development and liver-related mortality. An assessment of liver fibrosis was performed on 125 patients (66 SVR). Fibrosis values were significantly lower in SVR patients, showing less progression to advanced stages of fibrosis [SVR: 6.6 (2.8); 95% CI: 5.8–7.3] than NR [NR: 14.0 (11.1); 95% CI: 11.1–16.9; P<0.001].

Conclusion

In patients with CHC, SVR is durable and reduces clinical events. The risk of HCC development is lower, but not eliminated. Sustained responders showed fibrosis stabilization or improved fibrosis values.

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