From the Liver Unit (GL, SR, FD, DS), Division of Internal Medicine and Clinical Oncology, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology, University of Bari Medical School, Bari; Department of Medical Sciences (VC), and Medical Genetics (LS), Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Foggia Medical School, Foggia, Italy.
We evaluated the influence of cryoglobulinemic syndrome (CS) on the outcome of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in a 15-year prospective study. We assessed a cohort of 950 chronically HCV-infected patients, collected from the beginning of 1990 to the end of 2010. All patients had received a liver histologic diagnosis. Mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) was determined in 246 patients (25.8%), of whom 184 also had CS. They were assessed every 3 months for 15 years, at least; 141 patients with CS and 601 without MC completed the study.No spontaneous clearance of cryoglobulins was noted. Type II to type III spontaneous switching was ascertained in 1.6% (0.08%/yr) patients. The estimated progression rate of liver fibrosis was lower in CS(+) than in MC(-) patients (p < 0.05). The 15-year cumulative probability of developing cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma was higher in MC(-) than in CS(+) patients (24.9% vs. 14.2%, p < 0.005 and 20.3% vs. 7.5%, p = 0.003, respectively). Renal insufficiency, neurologic impairment, or B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma were significantly more frequent in CS(+) than in MC(-) patients (32.6% vs. 3%, p < 0.0001; 31.2% vs. 4.8%, p < 0.0001; and 15% vs. 7.1%, p = 0.003, respectively). However, in spite of different morbidity features and causes of death, the 15-year survival rate was similar in the 2 groups (70.2% vs. 71.7%). Antiviral therapy had an undisputable impact on patient outcome.This 15-year prospective cohort study shows that, although CS has no influence on the overall survival of HCV-infected patients, it significantly modifies the natural history of chronically HCV-infected patients.