Withdrawing Immunosuppression with Autoimmune Hepatitis

A recent retrospective study indicates that withdrawal of immunosuppression in autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) can be successful in carefully selected children (J Pediatr 2014; 164: 714-19).

A cohort of 56 children with AIH were followed for a median of 5.6 years and with a median age of 11 years (62% female).  Demographics noted that cirrhosis was present in 14%, primary sclerosing cholangitis 21%, and AIH type II in 9%.

Key findings:

  • Biochemical remission with immunosuppression was achieved in 76% of all patients at a median of 1.2 years; 23% of these patients experienced a subsequent relapse.
  • Withdrawal of immunosuppression was successful in 14 of 16 of patients with type 1 AIH who had been treated for a median of 2.0 years after diagnosis.
  • When the authors excluded patients with inflammatory bowel disease, they noted that the probability of achieving a sustained immunosuppression-free remission was 42% at 5 years.  Sustained remission was defined as biochemical remission for >1 year, liver biopsy without inflammation, and no relapses.
  • Patients less likely to reach a biochemical remission with immunosuppression included patients with cirrhosis, elevated INR, positive ANCA titer, and patients with coexisting autoimmune disorder.

In their discussion, the authors note that treatment withdrawal is “generally considered more successful after at least 3 years of therapy,” though only 50% of their patients who had therapy withdrawn had been treated that long.  In addition, they state that while coexisting immune disorders often result in more frequent relapses, the one exception in the literature is celiac disease when patients adhere to a strict gluten-free diet.  They also urge all patients diagnosed with AIH to undergo testing for celiac disease and thyroid disease.

Limitations of the study include the following: small numbers of patients, single center (Utah), retrospective design, and cholangiography was not performed uniformly.

Take-home message: In patients doing well with AIH for 2-3 years & with normalized liver histology, it may be possible to withdraw immunosuppression.

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Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) and specific medical management interventions should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Application of the information in a particular situation remains the professional responsibility of the practitioner.


1 thought on “Withdrawing Immunosuppression with Autoimmune Hepatitis

  1. Pingback: Liver Problems with Inflammatory Bowel Disease | gutsandgrowth

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