Background & aims: Apart from the high-risk groups, the pathology of chronic hepatitis C in children is not well known. The aim of this study was to investigate the morphology of chronic hepatitis C in children without any underlying systemic disease and to evaluate its relationship to clinicovirological factors.
Methods: Liver biopsy specimens from 80 children positive for antibody to hepatitis C virus were evaluated using a semiquantitative scoring system.
Results: Chronic hepatitis was mild in most cases but had high-grade activity in 17 children (21.2%). A significant association was found between the grade of focal necrosis and alanine transaminase levels (P < 0.003). Fibrosis was absent in 22 cases (27.5%), mild in 44 (55%), and moderate in 13 (16.2%). Only 1 patient had cirrhosis. A significant relationship was detected between fibrosis scores and (1) duration of disease (P < 0.03); (2) portal inflammation (P < 0. 002); and (3) interface hepatitis (P < 0.003).
Conclusions: In otherwise healthy children, chronic hepatitis C is a morphologically mild disease in most cases. Fibrosis increases with the duration of disease, suggesting that end-stage disease may develop in young adulthood. Alanine transaminase levels correlate with intralobular focal necrosis but not with other lesions. In this respect, liver biopsy retains its importance in the management of chronic hepatitis C in children.