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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;6(5):569-74. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.02.037.

Significant prevalence of histologic disease in patients with chronic hepatitis B and mildly elevated serum alanine aminotransferase levels.

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  • 1University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.



Serum ALT remains the most accessible test available to clinicians for monitoring chronic hepatitis B virus infection, but appropriate action when ALT levels are only mildly elevated is ambiguous in standard guidelines.


A retrospective study was conducted to investigate the prevalence of significant histology in a patient population with mildly elevated serum ALT levels. A total of 193 consecutive patients were selected and divided into 2 groups according to HBeAg status. Patients were further divided into cohorts on the basis of their highest ALT elevation during follow-up and whether it was 1-1.5 times the upper limit of normal (ULN), 1.5-2 times the ULN, or greater than twice the ULN. The ULN that was used is 30 U/L for men and 19 U/L for women.


In all cohorts there was a substantial fraction of patients with histologic disease as evaluated by liver biopsy. HBeAg-negative patients were older, had lower viral load, and had a higher prevalence of disease. After adjustments for age, HBeAg status and HBV DNA viral load were not predictors of significant histology. Age >35 years, male gender, and increasing ALT levels were predictors for significant histology on multivariate analysis.


A substantial proportion of patients with mildly elevated ALT levels have significant histologic disease. The prevalence increased with the higher ALT levels and age.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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