Source Liver Center, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 110 Francis Street, Suite 4A, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Background & Aims. Assess the clinical utility of the Prati criteria and normal ALT (<40 IU/L) in a cohort of patients with chronic hepatitis B infection (CHB).
Methods. Serology, radiology, and histology were obtained in 140 patients with CHB.
Results. HBeAg(+) group: 7 patients (7/56-12% HBeAg(+) group) misclassified as "immunotolerant", with HBV DNA > 6 log copies/ml and normal ALT, who in fact had moderate/severe fibrosis on liver biopsy. HBeAg(-) group: 10 patients with normal ALT and moderate/severe fibrosis on liver biopsy; 4 of these patients had >3 log copies/ml HBV DNA levels and 6 patients misclassified as "inactive carriers" with negative HBV DNA levels normal ALT and moderate/severe fibrosis (6/84-7% HBeAg(-) group). Two male HBeAg(+) and three male HBeAg(-) patients with ALT between 20 and 30 IU/L and moderate/severe fibrosis on liver biopsy would have been further mischaracterised using the Prati criteria for normal ALT. Age and ethnic group were more important predictors of moderate/severe fibrosis in multivariate analysis.
Conclusion. HBeAg status, age, ethnic origin with longitudinal assessment of LFTs and viral load should be studied in patients with "normal ALT" at the upper end of normal range (ALT 20-40 IU/L) to appropriately classify patients and identify patients for liver fibrosis assessment to inform treatment decisions.