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Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Jun;93(6):896-900.

Delayed clearance of serum HBsAg in compensated cirrhosis B: relation to interferon alpha therapy and disease prognosis. European Concerted Action on Viral Hepatitis (EUROHEP)

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  • 1Istituto di Patologia Speciale Medica, Cattedra di Medicina Interna, University of Verona, Italy.



The aim of this study was to evaluate the incidence, prognostic factors and clinical significance of delayed clearance of serum HBsAg in compensated cirrhosis B.


This was a retrospective cohort study of 309 consecutive white patients with biopsy-proved compensated cirrhosis type B.


During a mean follow-up of 68 months, HBsAg loss occurred in 32 patients, including 16 (8%) of 196 untreated patients (mean annual incidence 0.8%), 8 (10%) of 82 interferon (IFN) alpha-treated patients and eight patients who had been treated with other antivirals or steroids. The 5-yr probability of HBsAg loss was 4% and 16% for untreated and IFN-treated patients, respectively (p = 0.0001). Cox's regression analysis identified hepatitis B e antigen-positivity at entry as the sole independent prognostic factor for HBsAg loss. Of the 32 patients who lost HBsAg, one (3%) subsequently developed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and died, whereas, among the patients who remained HBsAg-positive, 11% developed HCC and 20% had died. The probability of HCC appearance was lower (p = 0.0137) and survival was longer (p = 0.0006) in patients who cleared HBsAg compared with patients with HBsAg persistence.


The incidence of HBsAg loss is about 0.8% in cirrhosis type B. Prognostic factors for clearance of HBsAg are initial HBeAg positivity and therapy with alpha interferon. Patients with cirrhosis type B, who lose HBsAg, have a low risk for liver cancer or liver-related death.

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