Background Studies using consecutive liver biopsies constitute an attractive approach to gaining insight into the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease.

Aim To analyse histological factors at baseline, which are predictive of fibrosis progression and recurrence of alcoholic hepatitis.

Results A total of 193 drinkers underwent consecutive biopsies at an interval of 4 years. At baseline, 20 had normal livers, 135 steatosis, five fibrosis and 33 alcoholic hepatitis. The fibrosis score increased from 1.07 ± 0.07 to 1.7 ± 0.94 (P < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, only steatosis (P = 0.04), alcoholic hepatitis (P = 0.0004) and stage of fibrosis (P < 0.0001) were independent predictive factors of the fibrosis score at the second biopsy. Cirrhosis developed more frequently in patients with steatosis (11%) and alcoholic hepatitis (39%) than in others (0%, P < 0.0001). Alcoholic hepatitis recurred more frequently in patients with alcoholic hepatitis at baseline: 58% vs. 15%, P < 0.0001. In multivariate analysis, alcoholic hepatitis at the first biopsy was the only predictive factor of its recurrence (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions In a large cohort of drinkers with consecutive biopsies, steatosis, fibrosis stage and alcoholic hepatitis at baseline were independent predictive factors of fibrosis progression. In terms of mechanisms, we propose a novel concept of multiple hits of alcoholic hepatitis occurring in the same patient.