Review article: overlap syndromes and autoimmune liver disease

Authors


  • This commissioned review article was subject to full peer-review.

Correspondence to:

Dr G. M. Hirschfield, Centre for Liver Research and NIHR Biomedical Research Unit, 5th Floor, Institute of Biomedical Research, The Medical School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.

E-mail: g.hirschfield@bham.ac.uk

Summary

Background

Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) all nestle within the family of autoimmune liver diseases, whereby the result of immune-mediated liver injury gives rise to varied clinical presentations. Some patients demonstrate a phenotype whereby there is evidence of either PBC or PSC together with overlapping features of AIH. Due to an absence of well-validated diagnostic criteria and a lack of large therapeutic trials, treatment of overlap conditions is empiric and extrapolated from data derived from the primary autoimmune liver diseases.

Aims

To review overlaps in the context of autoimmune liver diseases.

Methods

General and specific review of published articles using PubMed, Medline and Ovid search engines, alongside pre-existing clinical management protocols, guidelines, and the authors' own knowledge of the published literature.

Results

The challenges in diagnosis, clinical presentation, determining natural history and outcome of overlaps are presented, as well as present-day management suggestions, some based on evidence, others on consensus and opinion.

Conclusions

Overlapping autoimmune features, be they clinical, serological, histological or radiological are not infrequent, but appropriate diagnosis remains hindered by a lack of standardised diagnostic criteria. Optimum care for those with suspected overlap should thus focus on attention to detail over the fundamental aspects of timely secure diagnosis of the dominant disease entity. Clinicians should counsel patients carefully with regard to the risks and benefits of treatment, bearing in mind the paucity of randomised and controlled outcome data for medical interventions.

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