Primary biliary cirrhosis and autoimmune hepatitis are two main immune-mediated liver diseases. Some patients display characteristics of both diseases, so called overlap syndrome. The aims of this study were to investigate and to compare the clinical and laboratory features and responses to therapy in primary biliary cirrhosis and overlap syndrome.
Twenty-three patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (21 females, 2 males; median age: 50 years) and 20 with primary biliary cirrhosis-autoimmune hepatitis overlap syndrome (18 females, 2 males; median age: 44 years) were included in the study. All patients with primary biliary cirrhosis were treated with ursodeoxycholic acid. Of patients with overlap syndrome, 16 were treated with ursodeoxycholic acid and 4 with ursodeoxycholic acid plus prednisolone. Histological findings laboratory and clinical data were compared at the baseline and at the 2nd year of treatment.
Fatigue and pruritus were the most frequent and comparable symptoms in each group. Serum ALT, AST, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, total protein, globulin and gammaglobulin levels were higher in patients with overlap syndrome than those in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. At the end of the 2nd year of the treatment, ALT normalization was achieved in 12 (52%), alkaline phosphatase in 7 (30%) patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. One of the non-responders to ursodeoxycholic acid therapy had the histological findings of overlap syndrome in her control biopsy. Fibrosis score deteriorated in 50% of the patients. Of ursodeoxycholic acid-treated overlap syndrome patients, 11 completed 2 years of treatment. Three patients were biochemically non-responsive and prednisolone was added to their regimen. Of the remaining 8 patients, 7 (64% of total patients) had normal ALT. Three patients had worse fibrosis score comparing the onset of the treatment. Six of 7 (86%) patients who were given ursodeoxycholic acid plus prednisolone including ursodeoxycholic acid-non-responsives had normal ALT and 2 of 6 biopsy-controlled patients display deterioration of their fibrosis score.
Biochemical tests tended to be higher in patients with overlap syndrome comparing to those with primary biliary cirrhosis. Response to ursodeoxycholic acid treatment in patients with overlap syndrome was comparable with that obtained in primary biliary cirrhosis. Therefore it should be the first-line treatment. Non-responsive patients may benefit from the use of ursodeoxycholic acid plus prednisolone combination.
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