Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 57, Issue 8, pp 1996–2010 | Cite as

Advances in the Current Treatment of Autoimmune Hepatitis

  • Albert J. Czaja


Current treatment strategies for autoimmune hepatitis are complicated by frequent relapse after drug withdrawal, medication intolerance, and refractory disease. The objective of this review is to describe advances that have improved treatment outcomes by defining the optimum objectives of initial therapy, managing relapse more effectively, identifying problematic patients early, and incorporating the new pharmacological interventions that have emerged as frontline and salvage therapies. Initial corticosteroid treatment should be continued until serum aminotransferase, γ-globulin, and immunoglobulin G levels are normal, and maintenance of this improvement for 3–8 months before liver tissue assessment. Improvement to normal liver tissue is the ideal histological result that justifies drug withdrawal, but it is achievable in only 22 % of patients. Minimum portal hepatitis, inactive cirrhosis, or minimally active cirrhosis is the most common treatment end point. Relapse after drug withdrawal warrants institution of a long-term maintenance regimen, preferably with azathioprine. Mathematical models can identify problematic adult patients early, as also can clinical phenotype (age ≤30 years and HLA DRB1*03), rapidity of treatment response (≤24 months), presence of antibodies to soluble liver antigen, and non-white ethnicity. The calcineurin inhibitors (cyclosporine and tacrolimus) can be effective in steroid-refractory disease; mycophenolate mofetil can be corticosteroid-sparing and effective for azathioprine intolerance; budesonide combined with azathioprine can be effective for treatment-naïve, non-cirrhotic patients. Standard treatment regimens for autoimmune hepatitis can be upgraded without adjustments that require major new expertise.


Advances Autoimmune hepatitis Treatment Nonstandard medications 


Conflict of interest

Albert J. Czaja, MD has no conflict of interests to declare.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Gastroenterology and HepatologyMayo Clinic College of MedicineRochesterUSA

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