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Keywords:

  • acute liver failure;
  • fulminant hepatitis;
  • Japan;
  • liver transplantation;
  • viral hepatitis

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References

Aim

To summarize the annual nationwide survey on fulminant hepatitis (FH) and late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF) between 2004 and 2009 in Japan.

Methods

The annual survey was performed in a two-step questionnaire process to detail the clinical profile and prognosis of patients in special hospitals.

Results

Four hundred and sixty (n = 227 acute type; n = 233 subacute type) patients had FH and 28 patients had LOHF. The mean age of patients with FH and LOHF were 51.1 ± 17.0 and 58.0 ± 14.4 years, respectively. The causes of FH were hepatitis A virus in 3.0%, hepatitis B virus (HBV) in 40.2%, other viruses in 2.0%, autoimmune hepatitis in 8.3%, drug allergy-induced in 14.6% and indeterminate etiology in 29.6% of patients. HBV reactivation due to immunosuppressive therapy was observed in 6.8% of FH patients. The short-term survival rates of patients without liver transplantation (LT) were 48.7% and 24.2% for the acute and subacute type, respectively, and 13.0% for LOHF. The prognosis was poor in patients with HBV reactivation. The implementation rate for LT in FH patients was equivalent to that in the previous survey. The short-term survival rates of total patients, including LT patients, were 54.2% and 40.8% for the acute and subacute type, respectively, and 28.6% for LOHF.

Conclusion

The demographic features and etiology of FH patients has gradually changed. HBV reactivation due to immunosuppressive therapy is problematic. Despite advances in therapeutic approaches, the prognosis of patients without LT has not improved.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References

IN JAPAN, FULMINANT hepatitis (FH) is defined as having hepatitis, when grade II or worse hepatic encephalopathy develops within 8 weeks of the onset of disease symptoms, with a prothrombin time of 40% or less.[1, 2] FH is further classified into two subtypes, acute and subacute types, in which encephalopathy occurs within 10 days and later than 11 days, respectively, of the onset of the disease symptoms. Patients showing a prothrombin time of 40% or less, with hepatic encephalopathy developing between 8 and 24 weeks of disease onset are classified as having late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF).[3] Etiologies with hepatitis present in the histology, such as viral infection, autoimmune hepatitis and drug allergy-induced liver injury are defined as causes of FH and LOHF. In contrast, acute liver failure due to other causes with the absence of hepatitis in the histology, such as drug toxicity, circulatory disturbance and metabolic disease, are excluded as causes of FH and LOHF. Recently, a novel diagnostic criteria for acute liver failure in Japan was established by the Intractable Hepato-Biliary Disease Study Group.[4, 5] These criteria included other causes with liver damage without the absence of hepatitis in the histology in addition to the present criteria.

Among viral infection, hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a major cause of FH in Japan.[6, 7] HBV infection is classified into transient HBV infection type and acute exacerbation in an HBV inactive carrier. With advances in cytotoxic chemotherapy and immunosuppressive therapy, reactivation of hepatitis B is becoming a clinical problem.[8] Moreover, recent introduction of rituximab plus steroid combination therapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been associated with HBV reactivation in transiently infected patients, namely, de novo hepatitis. However, the prevalence of HBV reactivation in patients with FH and LOHF is unknown.

Advances in therapeutic strategies for FH and LOHF have improved the prognosis. Since 1988, living-donor liver transplantation (LT) has been adopted in patients who are beyond the supportive care of a critical unit.[6] Recently, artificial liver support with high-flow or on-line hemodiafiltration (HDF) has been used. Since 2006, a nucleoside analog, entecavir, has been used as a substitute for lamivudine, as an antiviral agent for HBV. However, it is unknown whether these new treatments improve the prognosis of FH.

The Intractable Hepato-Biliary Diseases Study Group has annually performed a nationwide survey of patients with FH and LOHF since 1983.[6] Since 2000, approximately 600 hospitals have been enrolled in the survey. This report summarizes the results of the survey between 2004 and 2009 to addresses the trends in the etiology and prognosis of patients with FH and LOHF and compares them with the previous survey.[7]

Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References

THE NATIONWIDE SURVEY was performed annually. The number of hospitals for survey has changed in each year. Maximum (608) was in 2007 and minimum (544) was in 2006, with active members of the Japan Society of Hepatology and the Japanese Society of Gastroenterology between 2005 and 2010. The survey was performed in a two-step questionnaire process to detail the clinical profile and prognosis of patients who were diagnosed as FH or LOHF in the previous year. The recovery rate of the first and second questionnaire was 39–59% and 60–100%, respectively. Patients who met the diagnostic criteria for FH or LOHF were entered into the survey. Patients under 1 year of age, those with alcoholic hepatitis, those with chronic liver diseases and those with acute liver failure with no histological features of hepatitis were excluded from the analysis.

According to criteria described in previous reports,[7, 9] the etiology of FH and LOHF was classified into five categories: (i) viral infection; (ii) autoimmune hepatitis; (iii) drug allergy-induced liver injury; (iv) indeterminate etiology despite sufficient examinations; and (v) unclassified due to insufficient examinations. Patients with viral infection consisted of those with hepatitis A virus (HAV), HBV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis E virus (HEV) and other viruses. The patients with HBV infection were classified into three subgroups according to serum markers of HBV, hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) and immunoglobulin (Ig)M-HBcAb: (i) transient HBV infection; (ii) acute exacerbation in HBV carriers; and (iii) indeterminate infection patterns. In the present study, we classified acute exacerbation in HBV carriers into three subgroups according to the new criteria:[4, 5] (i) inactive carriers, without drug exposure; (ii) reactivation in inactive carriers by immunosuppressant and/or anticancer drugs; and (iii) reactivation in transiently infected patients by immunosuppressant and/or anticancer drugs (i.e. de novo hepatitis). Because not every patient was examined for serological markers of transient HBV infection before the onset of FH and LOHF (with HBcAb and/or hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg] in serum), we defined HBV reactivation as that occurring in transiently infected patients when they developed HBV-related hepatitis due to immunosuppressive therapy or cytotoxic chemotherapy with reappearance of HBsAg in the serum and did not conform to the criteria of transient HBV infection.

The statistical significance of differences between groups was assessed using Student's t-test, Fisher's exact test or Kruskal–Wallis one-way anova. Data are shown as mean ± standard deviation. The study was conducted with the approval of the Ethical Committee of Kagoshima University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References

Demographic features and survival rates

FROM 2004–2009, 582 patients were enrolled in the survey. Ninety-four patients were excluded from the survey according to the exclusion criteria. Consequently, 460 patients (n = 227 acute type; n = 233 subacute type) were classified as having FH and 28 as having LOHF (Table 1). The incidence of the acute and subacute types of FH was similar and the incidence of LOHF was one-sixteenth of FH. The male : female ratio was higher for the acute type and lower for the subacute type of FH and LOHF. The mean age of patients was significantly higher for the subacute type of FH and LOHF than that for the acute type of FH. Almost half of the patients with FH and LOHF had complications which preceded the onset of acute liver failure. Furthermore, approximately 60% of patients with FH had received daily medication. This tendency for receiving medication was more obvious in patients with the subacute type of FH and LOHF.

Table 1. Demographic features and survival rates of patients with fulminant hepatitis (FH) and late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF)
 FHLOHF (n = 28)
Total (n = 460)Acute type (n = 227)Subacute type (n = 233)
  1. *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01 vs acute type.

  2. †Diseases such as metabolic syndrome, malignancy and psychiatric disorders.

  3. Data in parenthesis indicate patient numbers.

  4. HBV, hepatitis B virus; LT, liver transplantation; SD, standard deviation.

Male/female227/233127/100100/133**9/19*
Age (years; mean ± SD)51.1 ± 17.048.8 ± 16.953.4 ± 16.7**58.0 ± 14.4**
HBV carrier (%)13.1 (52/397)10.5 (19/181)15.3 (33/216)22.2 (6/27)
Complications preceding acute liver failure (%)46.4 (208/448)40.0 (88/220)52.6 (120/228)**50.0 (14/28)
History of medication (%)59.9 (260/434)51.2 (108/211)68.2 (152/223)**71.4 (20/28)*
Survival rates    
All patients47.4 (218/460)54.2 (123/227)40.8 (95/233)**28.6 (8/28)*
No LT37.5 (132/352)48.7 (93/191)24.2 (39/161)**13.0 (3/23)**
LT79.6 (86/108)83.3 (30/36)77.8 (56/72)100 (5/5)

The survival rates of patients without LT were 48.7% for the acute type and 24.2% for the subacute type of FH, and 13.0% for LOHF. The survival rates of the subacute type of FH and LOHF was worse than that of the acute type. The prognosis of both the acute type and the subacute type of FH appeared to be equivalent annually. The survival rates of patients with LT were 79.6% for FH and 100% for LOHF, with no difference in these rates among the disease types.

Clinical profile

Symptoms, imaging findings and complications are shown in Table 2. Since 2006, diagnostic criteria of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) for fever, tachycardia and tachypnea have been adopted in the survey.[10] Icterus, flapping tremor, ascites, hepatic fetor, tachycardia, tachypnea and pretibial edema were frequently found. The frequency of patients with ascites and pretibial edema was significantly greater in the subacute type of FH and LOHF than in the acute type of FH. In contrast, fever appeared more frequently in patients with the acute type of FH. The frequency of liver atrophy was greater in the subacute type of FH, and even higher in LOHF, than in the acute type of FH.

Table 2. Symptoms, imaging findings and complications of patients with fulminant hepatitis (FH) and late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF)
 FHLOHF (n = 28)
Total (n = 460)Acute type (n = 227)Subacute type (n = 233)
  1. *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01 vs acute type, ***P < 0.05 vs subacute type.

  2. †Temperature: >38°C or <36°C.

  3. ‡Heart rate: >90 beats/min.

  4. §Respiratory rate: >20 breaths/min or PaCO2: <32 Torr.

  5. † ‡ § Cases between 2005 and 2009.

  6. ¶Liver atrophy detected by ultrasound and/or computed tomography imaging.

  7. Data in parentheses indicate patient numbers.

  8. DIC, disseminated intravascular coagulation.

(a) Symptoms at diagnosis    
Fever13.0 (42/322)17.5 (28/160)8.6 (14/162)*0 (0/23)*
Icterus96.8 (427/441)95.0 (208/219)98.6 (219/222)*96.4 (27/28)
Ascites57.2 (237/414)45.2 (88/204)71.0 (149/210)**81.5 (22/27)**
Convulsion5.2 (22/422)6.7 (14/210)3.8 (8/212)0 (0/27)
Tachycardia36.7 (117/319)39.5 (62/157)34.0 (55/162)47.8 (11/23)
Tachypnea§34.5 (87/252)39.1 (52/133)29.4 (35/119)31.6 (6/19)
Flapping tremor79.0 (309/391)75.8 (144/190)82.1 (165/201)80.8 (21/26)
Hepatic fetor46.6 (146/313)49.0 (73/149)44.5 (73/164)42.1 (8/19)
Pretibial edema35.5 (127/358)24.1 (42/174)46.2 (85/184)**75.0 (15/20)**,***
(b) Imaging findings    
Liver atrophy58.8 (255/434)45.6 (98/215)71.7 (157/219)**92.6 (25/27)**,***
(c) Complications    
Infection34.8 (149/428)32.9 (68/207)36.7 (81/221)51.9 (14/27)
Brain edema18.5 (71/384)24.1 (46/191)13.0 (25/193)**22.7 (5/22)
Gastrointestinal bleeding13.2 (59/446)11.0 (24/219)15.4 (35/227)20.0 (5/25)
Renal failure38.9 (177/455)40.9 (92/225)37.0 (85/230)39.3 (11/28)
DIC34.6 (150/433)35.7 (76/213)33.6 (74/220)53.8 (14/26)
Congestive heart failure7.3 (31/427)8.9 (19/214)5.6 (12/213)12.0 (3/25)

With regard to complications, disseminated intravascular coagulation, renal failure and bacterial infection were found in more than 30% of patients with FH and LOHF. Brain edema was less frequent in the subacute type than in the acute type of FH.

Causes of FH and LOHF

The cause of FH was identified as viral infection in 46.1% of the patients (Table 3). The frequencies of viral infection were highest for the acute type of FH. HAV infection was found in 3% of patients with FH. HBV infection was found in 40.2% of patients with FH and 32.1% of patients with LOHF. Transient HBV infection was more frequent in the acute type than in the subacute type of FH, whereas the frequency of acute exacerbation in HBV carriers was greater in the subacute type than in the acute type of FH. HBV reactivation in inactive carriers and in transiently infected patients were found in 3.3% and 3.5% of patients with FH, respectively. With regard to underlying diseases in patients with HBV reactivation, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma/mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma was most prevalent in 50% of inactive carriers and in 76% of those with transiently infected patients. Among patients with HBV reactivation, rituximab plus steroid combination chemotherapy was administrated to 35% of patients in inactive carriers and to 59% of those with transiently infected patients. HCV and HEV infection were less frequently found. In the survey, Epstein–Barr virus, herpes simplex virus and human herpes virus type-6 were found as other causes of viral hepatitis.

Table 3. Causes of fulminant hepatitis (FH) and late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF)
 FHLOHF (n = 28)
Total (n = 460)Acute type (n = 227)Subacute type (n = 233)
  1. †Reactivation in inactive carrier by immunosuppressant and/or anticancer drugs.

  2. ‡Reactivation in transiently infected patients by immunosuppressant and/or anticancer drugs (de novo hepatitis).

  3. §Indeterminate etiology despite sufficient examinations.

  4. ¶Unclassified due to insufficient examinations.

  5. Data in parentheses indicate patient numbers.

  6. HAV, hepatitis A virus; HBV, hepatitis B virus; HCV, hepatitis C virus; HEV, hepatitis E virus.

Viral infection46.1 (212)62.6 (142)30.0 (70)32.1 (9)
HAV3.0 (14)5.7 (13)0.4 (1)0 (0)
HBV40.2 (185)54.2 (123)26.6 (62)32.1 (9)
(1) Transient infection19.6 (90)35.2 (80)4.3 (10)3.6 (1)
(2) Acute exacerbation in HBV carrier14.1 (65)7.9 (18)20.2 (47)25.0 (7)
(i) Inactive carrier, without drug exposure7.4 (34)6.2 (14)8.6 (20)3.6 (1)
(ii) Reactivation in inactive carrier3.3 (15)1.8 (4)4.7 (11)17.9 (5)
(iii) Reactivation in transiently infected patient3.5 (16)0 (0)6.9 (16)3.6 (1)
(3) Indeterminate infection patterns6.5 (30)11.0 (25)2.1 (5)3.6 (1)
HCV1.1 (5)0.9 (2)1.3 (3)0 (0)
HEV0.9 (4)0.9 (2)0.9 (2)0 (0)
Other viruses0.9 (4)0.9 (2)0.9 (2)0 (0)
Autoimmune hepatitis8.3 (38)2.2 (5)14.2 (33)32.1 (9)
Drug allergy-induced liver injury14.6 (67)13.7 (31)15.5 (36)17.9 (5)
Indeterminate§29.6 (136)19.4 (44)39.5 (92)17.9 (5)
Unclassified1.5 (7)2.2 (5)0.9 (2)0 (0)

Autoimmune hepatitis was frequently observed in patients with the subacute type of FH and LOHF. Drug allergy-induced liver injury was observed in approximately 10–20% of patients irrespective of disease types. Anti-tuberculosis agents, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anticancer agents, drugs for metabolic syndrome, and various herbal and natural remedies were the probable causative agents for this liver injury in the survey. Notably, the etiology was indeterminate in approximately 40% of patients with the subacute type of FH.

Therapies

For artificial liver support, plasma exchange and HDF were performed in most patients with FH (Table 4). Conventional HDF and continuous HDF (CHDF) were performed in 22.5% and 51.8% of patients with FH, respectively. A more powerful method, high-flow HDF (HF-HDF), high-flow CHDF (HF-CHDF) and on-line HDF were performed in 2.6%, 11.7% and 1.8% of the patients, respectively. The nucleoside analogs lamivudine and entecavir were used in approximately a quarter of patients with FH. Entecavir were used more frequently than lamivudine since 2007. Glucocorticosteroid, mainly as steroid pulse therapy, were administrated in more than 70% of patients with FH and LOHF. Anticoagulation therapy were performed in approximately 40–50% of patients with FH and LOHF. Glucagon/insulin, branched-chain amino acid-rich solution, cyclosporin A and prostaglandin E1 therapy were administrated less frequently compared with the previous survey.

Table 4. Therapies for patients with fulminant hepatitis (FH) and late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF)
 FHLOHF (n = 28)
Total (n = 460)Acute type (n = 227)Subacute type (n = 233)
  1. *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01 vs acute type, ***P < 0.05 vs subacute type.

  2. †Cases between 2006 and 2009.

  3. ‡Drugs such as antithrombin III concentrate and protease inhibitor compounds, gabexate mesylate and nafamostat mesilate.

  4. Data in parentheses indicate patient numbers.

  5. BCAA, branched-chain amino acid.

Plasma exchange90.9 (418/460)92.5 (210/227)89.3 (208/233)71.4 (20/28)**,***
Hemodiafiltration75.0 (342/456)75.1 (169/225)74.9 (173/231)57.1 (16/28)
Glucocorticosteroids72.4 (333/460)68.3 (155/227)76.4 (178/233)89.3 (25/28)*
Glucagon/insulin14.6 (67/459)13.7 (31/227)14.7 (34/232)17.9 (5/28)
BCAA-rich solution19.1 (87/456)14.3 (32/223)23.6 (55/233)*39.3 (11/28)**
Prostaglandin E17.0 (32/458)6.7 (15/225)7.3 (17/233)3.6 (1/28)
Cyclosporin A10.0 (46/460)7.0 (16/227)12.9 (30/233)*10.7 (3/28)
Interferon14.1 (65/460)15.4 (35/227)12.9 (30/233)10.7 (3/28)
Nucleoside analog38.9 (179/460)50.9 (115/226)27.5 (64/233)**32.1 (9/28)
Lamivudine25.5 (116/455)40.0 (76/224)30.4 (40/231)12.5 (6/28)
Entecavir22.4 (70/312)27.7 (41/148)17.7 (29/164)33.3 (5/15)
Anticoagulation therapy47.2 (216/458)43.2 (98/227)51.1 (118/231)39.3 (11/28)
Liver transplantation23.5 (108/460)15.9 (36/227)30.9 (72/233)17.9 (5/28)

Liver transplantation was performed in 23.5% and 17.9% of patients with FH and LOHF, respectively. Two patients received deceased-donor LT and 111 patients received living-donor LT. The frequency of LT was significantly greater in the subacute type than in the acute type of FH.

Prognosis

The prognosis of patients with FH and LOHF differed depending on the etiology (Table 5). Prognosis was good in patients with HAV infection. The prognosis was fair in patients with transient HBV infection. In contrast, the prognosis was poor in acute exacerbation in HBV carriers. The prognosis was extremely poor in patients with HBV reactivation, either from inactive carriers or transiently infected patients. Patients with the subacute type of FH and LOHF caused by autoimmune hepatitis, drug allergy-induced liver injury and indeterminate etiology also showed a poor prognosis.

Table 5. Survival rates and etiology of patients with fulminant hepatitis (FH) and late-onset hepatic failure (LOHF) who did not have liver transplantation
 FHLOHF (n = 23)
Total (n = 352)Acute type (n = 191)Subacute type (n = 161)
  1. **P < 0.01 vs acute type.

  2. †Reactivation in inactive carrier by immunosuppressant and/or anticancer drugs.

  3. ‡Reactivation in transiently infected patients by immunosuppressant and/or anticancer drugs (de novo hepatitis).

  4. §Indeterminate etiology despite sufficient examinations.

  5. ¶Unclassified due to insufficient examinations.

  6. Data in parentheses indicate patient numbers.

  7. HAV, hepatitis A virus; HBV, hepatitis B virus; HCV, hepatitis C virus; HEV, hepatitis E virus.

Viral infection39.8 (70/176)49.2 (58/118)20.7 (12/58)**14.3 (1/7)
HAV57.1 (8/14)61.5 (8/13)0 (0/1)
HBV36.2 (55/152)46.1 (47/102)16.0 (8/50)**14.3 (1/7)
(1) Transient infection52.6 (40/76)54.4 (37/68)37.5 (3/8)
(2) Acute exacerbation in HBV carrier15.1 (8/53)21.4 (3/14)12.8 (5/39)14.3 (1/7)
(i) Inactive carrier, without drug exposure29.2 (7/24)27.3 (3/11)30.8 (4/13)0 (0/1)
(ii) Reactivation in inactive carrier7.7 (1/13)0 (0/3)10.0 (1/10)20.0 (1/5)
(iii) Reactivation in transiently infected patients0 (0/16)0 (0/16)0 (0/1)
(3) Indeterminate infection patterns30.4 (7/23)35.0 (7/20)0 (0/3)
HCV50.0 (2/4)100 (1/1)33.3 (1/3)
HEV75.0 (3/4)100 (2/2)50 (1/2)
Other viruses100 (2/2)100 (2/2)
Autoimmune hepatitis32.4 (9/28)40.0 (2/5)30.4 (7/23)12.5 (1/8)
Drug allergy-induced32.8 (19/58)43.3 (13/30)21.4 (6/28)0 (0/3)
Indeterminate§37.6 (32/85)54.5 (18/33)26.9 (14/52)*20.0 (1/5)
Unclassified1.5 (7)40.0 (2/5)

The clinical features of the patients appeared to be associated with the prognosis. In the acute type of FH with no LT, the frequency of patients with SIRS (tachycardia or tachypnea) was greater in patients who died than in surviving patients (P <0.05). Liver atrophy on ultrasound and/or computed tomography imaging was an important factor in predicting the prognosis of FH and LOHF with no LT. The frequencies were 25.0% and 64.5% in patients with the acute type (P <0.01) and 55.6% and 78.1% in those with the subacute type of FH in surviving patients and those who died, respectively (P <0.05).

Prognosis also appeared to be affected by complications. Any of the complications significantly decreased survival rate (data not shown). Furthermore, the number of these complications affected the prognosis. The survival rate of patients with the acute type of FH was greater than 80% in those with no complications, while it was less than 30% in those with two or more complications. The survival rate of patients with the subacute type of FH was decreased in proportion to the number of complications.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References

IN THIS SURVEY, 488 patients were enrolled over 6 years. In the previous 6-year survey, 697 patients (634 for FH and 64 for LOHF) were enrolled.[7] The incidence ratio of LOHF to FH was decreased from 9:1 to 16:1. In national epidemiology research, the annual incidence of FH was estimated at 1050 cases in 1996 and 429 cases in 2004.[11] Therefore, the incidence of FH and LOHF could be decreasing longitudinally. In this survey, the mean age of patients with FH and LOHF was older than that in the previous survey. More patients with complications received daily medication compared with the previous survey. Changes in demographic features of the patients may affect the etiology and prognosis of FH. A relationship between daily dose of oral medication and idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury has been reported.[12] Additionally, older age is considered a poor prognostic factor in acute liver failure and may be considered a relative contraindication for LT.[13, 14]

The current study showed that HBV still remains a major cause of FH and LOHF. Notably, almost half of acute exacerbations in HBV carriers occurred in patients with HBV reactivation owing to immunosuppressive or cytotoxic therapy. Approximately 80% of patients with transiently infected patients had received rituximab plus steroid combination therapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This combination therapy has been identified as a risk factor for HBV reactivation in HBsAg positive/negative patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.[15, 16] Our survey revealed that careful attention is necessary for transiently infected patients, as well as for inactive HBV carriers using intensive immunosuppressive agents.

The frequency of HAV infection in patients with FH was decreased compared with the previous survey. This result is compatible with no occurrence of outbreak of acute hepatitis A during this period. In Japan, zoonotic transmission from pigs, wild boar and deer, either food-borne or otherwise, is the cause of HEV infection.[17, 18] In the currently studied survey, two-thirds of the patients were from endemic areas (Hokkaido Island and the northern part of mainland Honshu) in Japan.

The other principal finding in this survey was that the etiology was indeterminate in approximately 40% of patients with FH. One of the reasons for this result may be the failure of diagnosis for autoimmune hepatitis or drug-induced liver injury. Although the diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis relies on the presence of serum autoantibodies, with higher IgG levels (>2 g/dL), acute-onset autoimmune hepatitis does not always show typical clinical features.[19-21] Additionally, the sensitivity of the drug-induced lymphocyte stimulation test for diagnosis is not completely reliable.

Recently, powerful HDF using large buffer volumes (HF-HDF or HF-CHDF), or on-line HDF has been used. HF-HDF or HF-CHDF has a high recovery rate from a coma.[22-24] On-line HDF has an excellent recovery rate from a coma and is useful as a liver support system.[25] However, only 16% of patients with FH received these powerful HDF in the survey examined in the current study. The frequency of brain edema, gastrointestinal bleeding and congestive heart failure was decreased compared with that in the previous survey. Advances in artificial liver support and management may contribute to prevent these complications. Further evaluation is required to determine whether a new powerful support system can improve the prognosis of FH. The survival rate for FH patients with autoimmune hepatitis improved 17.1% in the previous survey to 32.4% in the 2004–2009 survey. Early commencement of corticosteroids may improve the prognosis. However, the efficacy of these drugs has not been evaluated statistically.

Recently, in patients with acute liver failure due to HBV, entecavir has been used more frequently than lamivudine because of its high potency and extremely low rates of drug resistance.[26] Entecavir beneficially affects the course of acute liver failure as lamivudine.[27, 28] Despite the use of entecavir, the prognosis of HBV-infected patients, especially in HBV carriers, has not improved. In the case of HBV reactivation, it is difficult to prevent development of liver failure, even when nucleoside analogs are administrated after the onset of hepatitis. Because these agents require a certain amount of time to decrease HBV DNA in serum, they need to be administrated in the early phase of hepatitis. Guidelines for preventing HBV reactivation recommend the administration of nucleoside analogs before the start of immunosuppressive therapy in inactive carriers and at an early stage of HBV reactivation during or after immunosuppressive therapy in transiently infected patients.[29]

Despite new therapeutic approaches and intensive care, the prognosis of patients without LT with both types of FH and LOHF appeared similar to that in the previous survey. In contrast, the prognosis of patients receiving LT was good in the present survey. Yamashiki et al. reported that the short-term and long-term outcomes of living-donor LT for acute liver failure were good, irrespective of the etiology and disease types.[30] In the current survey, the implementation rate of receiving LT was almost equivalent to that in the previous survey, irrespective of disease type. Notably, only two patients received deceased-donor LT in the current survey. Recently, patients with FH who received deceased-donor LT have been increasing since the new organ transplant bill passed in 2009. Hepatologists should realize that more donor action to increase deceased-donor LT is necessary to improve the prognosis of patients with FH or LOHF. Determining appropriate judgment to move forward to LT is the most important step. The indications for LT in cases of FH are determined according to the 1996 Guidelines of the Acute Liver Failure Study Group of Japan.[31] To improve the low sensitivity and specificity of assessment in patients with acute and subacute types,[32] new guidelines for using a scoring system have been established by the Intractable Hepato-Biliary Disease Study Group of Japan.[33] This novel scoring system showed sensitivity and specificity of 0.80 and 0.76, respectively, and greater than those in the previous guideline.[33] Recently, new prediction methods using data-mining analysis has been established.[34, 35]

In conclusion, the demographic features and etiology of FH and LOHF have been gradually changing. HBV reactivation due to immunosuppressive therapy is a particular problem because of poor prognosis. The subacute types of FH and LOHF have a poor prognosis, irrespective of the etiology. Despite recent advances in therapeutic approaches, the implementation rate for LT and survival rates of patients without LT are similar to those in the previous survey.

Acknowledgment

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References

This study was performed with the support of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare as an official project by the Intractable Hepato-Biliary Diseases Study Group of Japan.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgment
  8. References
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