Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 326–343 | Cite as

The Overlap Syndromes of Autoimmune Hepatitis

  • Albert J. CzajaEmail author


Autoimmune hepatitis has two major variant phenotypes in which the features of classical disease are co-mingled with those of primary biliary cirrhosis or primary sclerosing cholangitis. These overlap syndromes lack codified diagnostic criteria, established pathogenic mechanisms, and confident management strategies. Their clinical importance relates mainly to the identification of patients who respond poorly to conventional corticosteroid treatment. Scoring systems that lack discriminative power have been used in their definition, and a clinical phenotype based on pre-defined laboratory and histological findings has not been promulgated. The frequency of overlap with primary biliary cirrhosis is 7–13 %, and the frequency of overlap with primary sclerosing cholangitis is 8–17 %. Patients with autoimmune hepatitis and features of cholestatic disease must be distinguished from patients with cholestatic disease and features of autoimmune hepatitis. Variants of the overlap syndromes include patients with small duct primary sclerosing cholangitis, antimitochondrial antibody-negative primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis, and immunoglobulin G4-associated disease. Conventional corticosteroid therapy alone or in conjunction with ursodeoxycholic acid (13–15 mg/kg daily) has been variably effective, and cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, and budesonide have been beneficial in selected patients. The key cholestatic features that influence the prognosis of autoimmune hepatitis must be defined and incorporated into the definition of the syndrome rather than rely on designations that imply the co-mingling of different diseases with manifestations of variable clinical relevance. The overlap syndromes in autoimmune hepatitis are imprecise, heterogeneous, and unfounded, but they constitute a clinical reality that must be accepted, diagnosed, refined, treated, and studied.


Autoimmune hepatitis Overlap Variants Atypical Cholangitis 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

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

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