SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Summary

Background

Immunosuppressive treatment of autoimmune hepatitis can prevent or reverse hepatic fibrosis, but these anti-fibrotic effects are inconsistent secondary gains.

Aim

To describe the anti-fibrotic effects of current therapies for autoimmune hepatitis, discuss the pathogenic mechanisms of hepatic fibrosis that might be targeted by anti-fibrotic interventions, indicate the non-invasive diagnostic tests of hepatic fibrosis that must be validated in autoimmune hepatitis and to suggest promising treatment opportunities.

Methods

Studies cited in PubMed from 1972 to 2013 for autoimmune hepatitis, hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, anti-fibrotic therapy and non-invasive tests of hepatic fibrosis were selected.

Results

Hepatic fibrosis improves in 53–57% of corticosteroid-treated patients with autoimmune hepatitis; progressive fibrosis slows or is prevented in 79%; and cirrhosis may be reversed. Progressive hepatic fibrosis is associated with liver inflammation, and the inability to fully suppress inflammatory activity within 12 months is associated with progression to cirrhosis (54%) and death or need for liver transplantation (15%). Liver tissue examination remains the gold standard for assessing hepatic fibrosis, but laboratory and radiological tests may be useful non-invasive methods to measure the fibrotic response. Severe liver inflammation can confound radiological assessments, and the preferred non-invasive test in autoimmune hepatitis is uncertain. Individualised treatment adjustments and adjunctive anti-fibrotic therapies are poised for study in this disease.

Conclusions

The prevention and reversal of hepatic fibrosis are achievable objectives in autoimmune hepatitis. Strategies that evaluate individualised therapies adjusted to the rapidity and completeness of the inflammatory response, and the use of adjunctive anti-fibrotic interventions, must be evaluated.