OBJECTIVES: Steatosis is common in adults with chronic hepatitis C, and is involved in the progression of fibrosis. Because little is known about steatosis in pediatric hepatitis C, the aims of this study were to determine the prevalence and severity of steatosis in a pediatric population with chronic hepatitis C, and to evaluate its correlation with clinical parameters. METHODS: Liver biopsies were obtained from 66 consecutive Italian and Spanish children with chronic hepatitis C (87.6% genotype 1). Grade and stage were assessed according to Ishak's system. Steatosis was scored as absent, minimal (less than 5% of steatosic hepatocytes), mild (>5%, ≤33%), moderate (>33%, ≤66%), and severe (>66%); moderate and severe scores were combined for statistical purposes. The BMI-for-age percentile (BMI%) was calculated in all cases at the time of liver biopsy. Cholesterol and triglyceride serum levels were available in 55 cases. RESULTS: The prevalence of steatosis was 27% (18/66 cases, 16/18 with genotype 1), and it was higher in Italian than in Spanish patients (10/21 vs.7/45, P = 0.01). BMI% correlated significantly with both the presence of steatosis (P = 0.002) and its severity (P = 0.000). Steatosis also correlated with serum triglyceride levels (P = 0.04). CONCLUSION: Steatosis is associated with BMI in children with chronic hepatitis C due mainly to genotype 1, and with no confounding hepatotoxic factors (alcohol or drugs). This may reflect its metabolic rather than viral origin and raise new issues in the management of children with hepatitis C.
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