Histopathologic findings in chronic hepatitis C

J Hepatol. 1996;24(2 Suppl):35-42.


Evaluation of liver biopsies in hepatitis C is aimed at confirming the clinical and serologic diagnosis, grading of necroinflammatory activity, staging of consecutive fibrosis, ruling out or confirming liver diseases of different etiology, and assessment of therapeutic effects. Usually, the course of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is slow, with mild inflammatory changes. Nevertheless, even in mild asymptomatic chronic hepatitis C episodes of higher inflammatory activity associated with extensive piecemeal necrosis and porto-central bridging, necrosis can accelerate the course of the disease. For this reason, the traditional, morphologically based classification of chronic hepatitis and the term "chronic persistent hepatitis" have lost their predictive usefulness, especially in hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis should be characterized by etiologic designation as well as grade and stage of the disease. Portal lymphoid aggregates, some inflammatory bile duct damage and mild steatosis are the most characteristic features by which hepatitis C can be differentiated from other progressive inflammatory liver diseases. Antibodies directed against HCV antigens allow identification of viral proteins by immunohistochemistry. Immunostaining for hepatitis B antigens, for alpha-1-antitrypsin and copper staining are helpful in detecting hepatitis B and congenital liver diseases (Wilson's disease, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency) as possible causes of chronic progressive inflammatory liver disease. Centrilobular Mallory's hyalin, identified by immunostaining for ubiquitin in combination with perivenular fibrosis, is helpful in diagnosing concomitant alcoholic liver disease. In our own biopsy material (n = 100) and autopsy material (n = 58), HIV/HCV-coinfected patients have a significantly higher rate of fibrosis and cirrhosis than HIV patients without HCV infection. Hepatitis C can apparently aggravate the course of HIV infection. Our morphologic findings support the clinical observation that chronic HCV infection seems to be the main cause of liver failure, especially in the risk group of HCV/HIV-coinfected hemophiliacs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • HIV Infections / pathology
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C / pathology*
  • Hepatitis C / therapy
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use


  • Interferon-alpha