Source AM Migliavacca Center for Liver Disease, First Division of Gastroenterology, Fondazione IRCCS Cà Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.
BACKGROUND: Gastrointestinal haemorrhage from ruptured esophageal varices (EV) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with HCV-related cirrhosis. The risk of developing EV and bleeding is influenced by hepatitis severity, which can be attenuated by successful interferon (IFN) therapy. Our aim was to prospectively assess whether a successful IFN therapy modifies development and/or progression of EV in patients with HCV-related compensated cirrhosis.
METHODS: Child-Pugh A patients with either no or small (F1) EV underwent surveillance with repeated endoscopy during and after completion of IFN-based therapy.
RESULTS: A total of 127 patients (59 years, 79 males, 65 HCV-1/4 and 17 F1 EV) received weight-based ribavirin (RBV) combined with either IFN-α2b 3 MU three times per week (n=36), weekly pegylated (PEG)-IFN-α2b 1.5 μg/kg (n=68) or weekly PEG-IFN-α2a 180 μg (n=23). Patients were followed-up for 18-108 months after treatment completion with a median endoscopic follow-up of 68 months for the 62 patients with a sustained virological response (SVR) and 57 months for the 65 non-SVR patients (P=0.3). De novo EV developed in 10 (9.1%) patients including 2/57 SVR and 8/53 non-SVR (3.5% versus 15.1%; P=0.047), whereas EV progressed in size in 3 patients, including 1/5 SVR and 2/12 non-SVR (P=0.87). Two non-SVR patients bled from EV and one died.
CONCLUSIONS: A successful IFN therapy prevents or delays the de novo onset of EV in patients with compensated cirrhosis due to HCV, but does not abrogate the need for continued endoscopic surveillance.