Treatment strategies in autoimmune hepatitis

Clin Liver Dis. 2002 Aug;6(3):799-824. doi: 10.1016/s1089-3261(02)00028-4.


Prednisone alone or a lower dose in combination with azathioprine is effective in improving symptoms, resolving laboratory and histologic features, and prolonging survival in patients with autoimmune hepatitis. The combination regimen of prednisone and azathioprine is preferred because of its lower frequency of corticosteroid-related side effects. Only patients with severe inflammatory activity have absolute indications for therapy. Treatment must be individualized in patients with mild-to-moderate disease. Medication should be continued at fixed daily maintenance levels until a remission, treatment failure, drug intolerance, or incomplete response has been established. Histologic examination before drug withdrawal ensures remission when symptoms and laboratory tests are normal or near normal. Treatment failure warrants high-dose therapy, whereas drug toxicity and incomplete response compel regimens that are modified individually according to response. Low-dose prednisone or indefinite azathioprine therapy are indicated in patients who have relapsed multiply. Empiric nonsteroidal treatments include ursodeoxycholic acid, cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus, and they have been used in limited studies to treat recalcitrant disease or corticosteroid intolerance. Investigational therapies promise to target critical pathogenic mechanisms affecting immunocyte activation, autoantigen recognition, cytokine interactions, and regenerative activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Azathioprine / adverse effects
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use*
  • Budesonide / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Disease Progression
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisolone / adverse effects
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use*
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Budesonide
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid
  • Cyclosporine
  • Prednisolone
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Azathioprine
  • Tacrolimus