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Objective and design: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection may lead to liver cirrhosis; however, factors associated with the development of cirrhosis have been incompletely studied. A total of 516 patients with chronic hepatitis B were followed up longitudinally to determine their outcome.

Methods: The clinical and pathological features were compared between those with and without cirrhosis occurrence. The risk factors were analysed, and the probability of the development of cirrhosis was estimated.

Results: During a mean follow-up period of 5.7 /- 3.4 years (range 1-17 years), cirrhosis occurred in 71 patients, with a calculated annual incidence of 2.4%. Older age (> 45 years) at entry, male gender, persistent hepatitis (> 1.5-fold rise of serum alanine aminotransferase levels for at least one year) and diabetes mellitus were identified as independent risk factors of cirrhosis in a multivariate analysis (odds ratios 8.0, 19.3, 2.0 and 5.2, respectively; P values all < 0.05). A logistic regression equation was used to predict the probability of cirrhosis occurrence, which was as high as 76.6% when all risk factors were present. Acute exacerbation or super-infection by hepatitis C or D viruses were not significant predictors. Patients with subsequent cirrhosis had higher initial hepatic histological necro-inflammatory activities when compared to age- and sex-matched non-cirrhotic controls (Knodell's scores: 8.2 /- 2.4 versus 6.0 /- 4.1, P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Patients who were elderly, male, diabetic or had a history of persistent and histologically severe hepatitis were at increased risks of liver cirrhosis. Aggressive anti-viral therapy may be needed for these patients and they should be closely monitored for HBV-related late complications. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 12:687-693

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