• chronic hepatitis;
  • epidemiologic method

ABSTRACT. An epidemiological study of idiopathic chronic active hepatitis in Iceland during 1970-79 is described. Patients were identified by examining all request forms for surgical specimens (117 141) sent to the Department of Pathology in that period. The diagnosis was established by a review of clinical records and liver biopsies. The patients were interviewed if clinical or serological information was lacking. Although 33.9% of all deaths in Iceland were autopsied during this period, no previously undiagnosed case of idiopathic chronic active hepatitis was found among the deceased. Eighteen new cases were found, 17 females and one male. The mean age at the time of diagnosis established by liver biopsy was 53 years (range 3–79). The most common symptoms were fatigue and/or malaise (89%) and jaundice (61%) and the prevalence of immunological markers was high. The average annual incidence was 0.83/100000 and the prevalence 8/100000. Because of the ethnic origin of Icelanders, these figures might possibly apply to Norway and the British Isles.