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Keywords:

  • cirrhosis progression;
  • decompensation;
  • fibrosis;
  • HCC;
  • modelling;
  • natural history;
  • outcomes;
  • remission

Abstract

A sustained virological response (SVR), defined as undetectable hepatitis C virus (HCV)-RNA 24 weeks after withdrawal from therapy (SVR-24w), is the primary endpoint of antiviral therapy in chronic hepatitis C. There is solid evidence that patients who reach this target will remain virus free during long-term follow-up, with a risk of late HCV recurrence of <2% in published series using the most stringent criteria for assessing the virological response during and after antiviral therapy. Long-term observational studies indicate that SVR-24w has a profound impact on the natural course of chronic hepatitis C in relation to biochemical and histological remission of liver disease and improvement in quality of life. The effects of successful antiviral therapy on clinical endpoints such as the development of end-stage liver disease, its severe complications and liver-related mortality have been more difficult to ascertain because of the heterogeneity of the initial staging and rate of progression of chronic hepatitis C. However, most available data suggest that SVR following antiviral therapy reduces the risk of progression to cirrhosis and may prevent the development of severe liver complications and improve survival, at least in successfully treated patients who have already progressed to significant liver fibrosis or early cirrhosis. Outcome modelling suggests that these effects might also include HCV patients treated with milder forms of liver damage.