One hundred fifty patients with sustained virologic response (SVR) after treatment of chronic hepatitis C were enrolled in a long-term clinical follow-up study; patients were followed for 5 years for liver-related outcomes and evidence of biochemical or virologic relapse. Patients with stage 2 or greater fibrosis on pretreatment biopsy were invited to undergo a long-term follow-up biopsy after their fourth year of follow-up. One hundred twenty-eight patients (85%) were followed through their fourth year, and long-term follow-up biopsies were obtained from 60 patients (40%). Forty-nine patients had paired pretreatment and long-term follow-up biopsies blindly rescored. Forty of these patients (82%) had a decrease in fibrosis score, and 45 (92%) had a decrease in combined inflammation score. Ten patients (20%) had normal or nearly normal livers on long-term follow-up biopsy. Two patients with pretreatment cirrhosis developed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and one died. All the other patients with pretreatment cirrhosis or advanced fibrosis had improved fibrosis scores on long-term follow-up biopsy. No patient had conclusive evidence of virologic relapse. Three patients had persistently elevated alanine aminotransferase levels; two of these had new liver disease.
Conclusion: In a cohort of 150 patients with SVR followed for 5 years, the majority of patients had good outcomes. Serum virologic relapse was not seen, but two patients with pretreatment cirrhosis developed HCC, and one died. In a blind rescoring of 49 paired pretreatment and long-term follow-up biopsies, 82% improved fibrosis scores and 92% improved at least one component of inflammation. A minority of patients had normal or nearly normal liver tissue on long-term follow-up biopsy. Patients with cirrhosis pretreatment are at a low but real risk of HCC after SVR.