Published online Nov 21, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i43.16053
Revised: April 22, 2014
Accepted: July 24, 2014
Published online: November 21, 2014
In the past few decades, chronic hepatitis B (CHB) has evolved from a disease that was untreatable and progressive, to one that can be easily controlled with antiviral therapy. However, patients with severe liver disease still remain difficult to treat despite the availability of highly potent nucleos(t)ide analogs. These include those with underlying cirrhosis, severe flares of CHB, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and for those undergoing liver transplantation. For those with established cirrhosis, antiviral therapy should be considered for all, as unpredictable flares can still occur, which can be fatal for those with advanced chronic liver disease. However, even with effective viral suppression, the development of HCC can still occur. For patients with severe flares of CHB, although the use of antiviral can improve long term outcomes, a significant proportion may still die without liver transplantation. The short term prognosis of these patients is dependent on both the severity of flare and underlying pre-existing liver disease. In patients with decompensated cirrhosis, liver failure secondary to severe flares, or those with HCC, liver transplantation may be curative. After liver transplantation, long term antiviral therapy is required to prevent graft loss from recurrent hepatitis B infection. The use of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) in combination with an oral antiviral agent has been the mainstay of post-transplant antiviral regimen for over a decade. With newer and more potent antiviral agents such as tenofovir and entecavir, use of these agents along with HBIG have demonstrated to be effective in preventing significant recurrence in the long term.
Core tip: This review discusses the treatment of chronic hepatitis B in patients with underlying severe liver disease, including cirrhosis, acute on chronic liver failure, hepatocellular carcinoma, and those undergoing liver transplantation. Despite the availability of highly potent antiviral drugs, these patients are often difficult to manage. The use of currently available antiviral agents is discussed along with its efficacy in these patients with severe hepatitis B liver disease.