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Steatosis and fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C
  1. J Wyatt1,
  2. H Baker1,
  3. P Prasad1,
  4. Y Y Gong3,
  5. C Millson2
  1. 1Department of Histopathology, St James’s Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF, UK
  2. 2Department of Hepatology, St James’s Hospital
  3. 3Molecular Epidemiology Unit, University of Leeds School of Medicine, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J I Wyatt
 St James’s University Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF, UK;


Background: Steatosis is present on liver biopsy in approximately 50% of patients with hepatitis C; its association with stage of fibrosis has been reported, but its relation to other fibrosis associated factors is unknown.

Aim: To study the relation between steatosis and other histological features in patients with hepatitis C, and changes in steatosis with time.

Methods: Cross sectional study: 233 routine liver biopsies from 219 patients with hepatitis C; hepatectomy specimens from 65 patients transplanted for hepatitis C cirrhosis. Longitudinal study: 41 patients with two biopsies and 10 patients with three biopsies performed over 2–8 years. Biopsies were scored by the Ishak scheme, and degree of steatosis assessed subjectively. Multivariate analysis was used to study the interaction of fibrosis associated factors. Changes in steatosis over time in individual patients were explored in the longitudinal study.

Results: Steatosis was present in 50% of biopsies. It correlated strongly with fibrosis in non-cirrhotic samples, but declined in cirrhosis, and was unusual in transplant hepatectomy specimens. On multivariate analysis of non-cirrhotic biopsies, steatosis was associated with increasing patient age and remained significantly associated with fibrosis independent of portal inflammation and interface hepatitis. In the longitudinal study, steatosis persisted and increased over time, except in patients developing cirrhosis.

Conclusions: Steatosis is associated with fibrosis independently of necroinflammation, but declines in cirrhosis. It may represent a pathogenic pathway distinct from necroinflammatory activity in the generation of liver fibrosis, and should be included in the assessment of biopsies for clinical and research purposes.

  • hepatitis C
  • steatosis
  • fibrosis
  • ALT, alanine aminotransferase
  • BMI, body mass index
  • HCV, hepatitis C virus

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