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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Jun;8(6):541-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2010.02.023. Epub 2010 Mar 16.

Hepatitis B virus DNA level predicts hepatic decompensation in patients with acute exacerbation of chronic hepatitis B.

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Liver Research Unit, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan.



Acute exacerbations of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection can lead to hepatic decompensation. It is important to identify factors that predict the development of hepatic decompensation during exacerbation so that antiviral therapy can be initiated immediately.


Acute exacerbation, defined by an abrupt increase in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels to >5-fold the upper limit of normal, occurred in 110 hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-seropositive non-cirrhotic patients (138 episodes). The patients were monitored every 1 to 2 weeks for serum levels of ALT, bilirubin, albumin, and prothrombin. Sex, age, HBV genotype, ALT level, HBV viral load, and the causes (spontaneous or relapse from antiviral treatment) of exacerbation were included in multivariate logistic regression analyses. The receiver operating characteristic curve was used to identify the optimal cut-off value of serum HBV DNA level to identify patients at risk for decompensation.


Seven of the 138 episodes of acute exacerbation (5.1%) resulted in hepatic decompensation; serum HBV DNA level was the only significant risk factor (P = .003). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 88.6% (P < .001). A serum HBV DNA cut-off value of 1.55 x 10(9) copies/mL predicted decompensation with a sensitivity of 85.7%, a specificity of 85.5%, a negative prediction value of 99.1%, and positive prediction value of 24.0%.


During acute exacerbation of HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B, a serum HBV DNA cut-off value of 1.55 x 10(9) copies/mL can be used to identify patients in need of immediate antiviral therapy.

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