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Weber, Sabine; Benesic, Andreas; Rotter, Isabelle and Gerbes, Alexander L. (October 2019): Early ALT response to corticosteroid treatment distinguishes idiosyncratic drug‐induced liver injury from autoimmune hepatitis. In: Liver International, Vol. 39, No. 10: pp. 1906-1917 [PDF, 658kB]


Background Drug‐induced liver injury (DILI) and idiopathic autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) are competing diagnoses in patients with acute liver injury (ALI) and drug intake. In absence of unequivocal markers, scores like RUCAM and AIH are used to distinguish both entities. However, in some cases the diagnosis remains ambiguous. Our aim was to identify a simple parameter to discriminate DILI and AIH shortly after starting corticosteroid treatment.

Methods For the current analysis, 44 patients with ALI who took at least one drug and who received corticosteroids were included and comprised 22 DILI and 22 AIH cases. Scores of AIH and RUCAM were calculated at initial presentation, the final diagnosis was made from analysing the course of disease. Changes in the serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) concentrations after starting corticosteroid treatment were determined and compared between the DILI and AIH groups.

Results Fifty‐nine per cent of patients (n = 26) were correctly classified at presentation by AIH score and RUCAM respectively. However, in one‐third (n = 13) of the 44 patients, results were inconclusive and five other patients were misclassified. The decrease in ALT levels 1 week after the initiation of steroid therapy was significantly more pronounced in patients with the final diagnosis of DILI than in AIH patients (accuracy 77%). This difference was also observed in the 18 initially misclassified or inconclusive cases (accuracy 83%).

Conclusion Short‐term response of ALT to corticosteroid therapy helps to differentiate DILI and AIH. This finding may be helpful in treatment decision for patients with inconclusive diagnostic scores.

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