Autoimmune hepatitis: Effect of symptoms and cirrhosis on natural history and outcome


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Although the natural history of autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) has been characterized, little is known about patients who present asymptomatically. Consequently, whether they require immunosuppressive therapy with its associated complications is unclear. To compare the natural history of asymptomatic AIH with symptomatic AIH, a large cohort of patients from a single center was examined. All patients with a clinical diagnosis of AIH were reassessed using the revised criteria of the International Autoimmune Hepatitis Group. Liver histology, response to therapy, and survival were assessed. Patients asymptomatic at presentation (n = 31) had lower serum aminotransferase, bilirubin, and immunoglobulin G (IgG) values at baseline. Half of the asymptomatic patients received no therapy, and their survival was no different from that of the total cohort. Ten-year survival was 80.0% (62.5%-97.5%) in the asymptomatic group and 83.8% (75.1%-92.6%) in the symptomatic patients (P = NS). Survival to liver-related endpoints at 10 years was similar in both groups: 89.5% (75.7%-100%) asymptomatic and 83.8% (75.1%-92.6%) symptomatic patients (P = NS). Patients with cirrhosis at baseline had poorer 10-year survival (61.9% [CI 44.9%-78.9%]) than those without cirrhosis at presentation (94.0% [CI 87.4%-100%]) (P = .003) regardless of whether they presented with symptoms or whether they received immunosuppressive therapy. In conclusion, patients with AIH who are asymptomatic at presentation have a good prognosis and may not require immunosuppressive therapy. Cirrhosis on initial liver biopsy portends a poor prognosis in all patients with AIH. (HEPATOLOGY 2005.)