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Is pre-treatment liver biopsy necessary for all hepatitis C genotypes?

Kevork M. Peltekian, Vincent G. Bain, Samuel S. Lee, Morris Sherman, Curtis L. Cooper, Eric M. Yoshida, Paul J. Marotta, Mel Krajden, Robert Balshaw, Marc Deschênes


Background. Current practice guidelines recommend liver biopsy prior to treatment of hepatitis C genotype- 1 but not for genotype-2/3; this is based on expert opinion, not on published evidence. Methods. In retrospective analysis of a large trial database prior to the publication of recent guidelines, we compared outcomes in 985 treatment-naïve patients with hepatitis C who did or did not undergo liver biopsy before starting peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin. Results. Physicians elected to treat 141/654 (21.6%) genotype-1 patients and 126/331 (38.1%) genotype-2/3 patients without liver biopsy. There were no differences in baseline characteristics among those with or without pre-treatment liver biopsy, except for female preponderance in genotype-1 patients with liver biopsy. The sustained viral response (SVR) rate was no different amongst genotype-2/3 patients who had a biopsy before treatment with 66.3% SVR vs. 69.8% of those treated without biopsy (p = 0.546), but significantly higher among genotype-1 patients with pre-treatment liver biopsy at 54.6 vs. 44.0% for those treated without a liver biopsy (p = 0.029). In genotype-1 patients with liver biopsy, more patients with cirrhosis had dose adjustments (p = 0.0057) rather than drug discontinuation. There was tendency for earlier discontinuation among patients without pre-treatment liver biopsy. Conclusions. Pre-treatment liver biopsy was associated with better SVR amongst genotype-1 patients. This improvement may reflect ongoing commitment to completing the treatment course by both patient and physician. In genotype-2/3 patients, pre-treatment liver biopsy may not be essential to maximize SVR rates. This study validates the recommendations of the most recent treatment guidelines for hepatitis C.

Key words. Chronic hepatitis C, Liver biopsy, Outcomes research, Practice guidelines, Antiviral therapy, Adherence, Adverse events

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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