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Relationship of serum alpha-fetoprotein to the severity and duration of illness in patients with viral hepatitis



Relationship of serum alpha-fetoprotein to the severity and duration of illness in patients with viral hepatitis



Gastroenterology 68(2): 342-350



Using a radioimmunoassay which detect concentrations of alpha-fetoprotein as low as 5 ng per ml, 38% of 176 patients with viral hepatitis compared with health volunteers and patients with chronic diseases not affecting the liver. When separated into two groups based on histological classification of liver biopsy specimens, differences in the degree and frequency of increased serum alpha-fetoprotein were related to the severity of the hepatic lesion. Of 75 patients with the lesion of viral subacute hepatic necrosis, in which zones of necrosis bridge adjacent portal triads or central veins, 52% had increased values, and 12% had levels ranging from 500 to 3300 ng per ml. In contrast, only 28% of the 101 patients without bridging necrosis had increased values, and none had levels that exceeded 500 ng per ml. In the patients with subacute hepatic necrosis, comparison of alpha-fetoprotein concentrations with the duration of illness indicated that the protein rose to peak levels in serum as the SGOT was declining. This was confirmed by serial observations in 10 patients. Thus, the increase of alpha-fetoprotein in the sera of patients with severe hepatitis occurs as liver necrosis is subsiding. Due to other known features of alpha-fetoprotein, it is intriguing to speculate that the increase in serum levels of this protein in viral hepatitis reflects hepatic regeneration after parenchymal damage.

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Accession: 041224226

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PMID: 163780


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