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World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Feb 7;16(5):596-602.

Phlebotomy improves histology in chronic hepatitis C males with mild iron overload.

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Gastroenterology Unit, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Maggiore della Carità, Corso Mazzini, 18, 28100 Novara, Italy.



To investigate the usefulness of mild iron depletion and the factors predictive for histological improvement following phlebotomy in Caucasians with chronic hepatitis C (CHC).


We investigated 28 CHC Caucasians with persistently elevated serum aminotransferase levels and non responders to, or unsuitable for, antiviral therapy who underwent mild iron depletion (ferritin < or = 70 ng/mL) by long-term phlebotomy. Histological improvement, as defined by at least one point reduction in the staging score or, in case of unchanged stage, as at least two points reduction in the grading score (Knodell), was evaluated in two subsequent liver biopsies (before and at the end of phlebotomy, 48 +/- 16 mo apart).


Phlebotomy showed an excellent safety profile. Histological improvement occurred in 12/28 phlebotomized patients. Only males responded to phlebotomy. At univariate logistic analysis alcohol intake (P = 0.034), high histological grading (P = 0.01) and high hepatic iron concentration (HIC) (P = 0.04) before treatment were associated with histological improvement. Multivariate logistic analysis showed that in males high HIC was the only predictor of histological improvement following phlebotomy (OR = 1.41, 95% CI: 1.03-1.94, P = 0.031). Accordingly, 12 out of 17 (70%) patients with HIC > or = 20 micromol/g showed histological improvements at the second biopsy.


Male CHC Caucasian non-responders to antiviral therapy with low-grade iron overload can benefit from mild iron depletion by long-term phlebotomy.

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