Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic disease in which your immune system attacks your liver. While the condition can be controlled with medication, autoimmune hepatitis that has progressed or is diagnosed at later stages can lead to liver failure. Severe autoimmune hepatitis may require advanced treatments, including a liver transplant. Duke hepatologists are experts in treating autoimmune hepatitis. We help you manage your condition, monitor its progression, and prepare you for a liver transplant if it becomes necessary.
About Autoimmune Hepatitis
More Common in Women
While the cause of autoimmune hepatitis is unclear, the condition is known to occur more often in women and to run in families. It is more commonly found in people with other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
Seek Care If You Have Autoimmune Hepatitis Symptoms
Some people with autoimmune hepatitis do not have any symptoms. Others may have joint pain, skin rashes, nausea, poor appetite, and fatigue. If you have these symptoms and your liver tests are abnormal, it’s important to seek medical care with a hepatologist as soon as possible. Liver specialists at Duke will diagnose your condition and start treatment promptly. This will minimize your symptoms and keep your liver as healthy as possible. Most people with autoimmune hepatitis do well and never need a liver transplant.
Why Early Diagnosis and Expert Treatment Are Important
Left untreated, inflammation caused by autoimmune hepatitis can result in permanent scarring of your liver, called cirrhosis. Liver cancer, liver failure, and other serious complications may also occur. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent these problems.
Treatment for Complications
If autoimmune hepatitis leads to cirrhosis and other health problems, our hepatologist will work with other specialists to recommend the most effective treatment for your condition.
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If autoimmune hepatitis is suspected, your hepatologist will conduct an extensive medical history and physical exam. One or more of the following tests may be prescribed to confirm your diagnosis or to evaluate whether your condition has progressed.
Lab work can measure levels of specific liver enzymes that may indicate if you have autoimmune hepatitis, viral hepatitis, an inherited liver disorder, or potentially NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a disease in which people who drink little or no alcohol develop fat, inflammation, and scarring in their livers). Lab work can also check for antibodies that are often abnormal in people with autoimmune hepatitis.
Ultrasound, CT, MRI
These imaging tests can help diagnose complications that can result from autoimmune hepatitis.
A small piece of liver tissue is removed using a thin needle inserted through the abdomen. A biopsy can show the extent of liver scarring and help confirm the diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis, as well as guide treatment decisions.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our gastroenterology and GI surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.
Why Choose Duke
Extensive Experience, Individualized Treatment
Our liver specialists have extensive experience treating people with autoimmune hepatitis and other liver conditions. We offer the most advanced treatments and individualize your treatment to ensure you experience the best possible outcome.
A Team of Liver Specialists
Your team will include a range of specialists who work together to give you the highest level of care. Our hepatologists, surgeons, nutritionists, social workers, transplant coordinators, and others design a care plan that considers not just your physical condition but also your emotional and psychological wellbeing.
We understand the important role family and friends play in helping you through this journey. With your approval, we include your family as part of your care team and keep them up to date on your condition and treatments.
If You Need a Liver Transplant
Our liver transplant program will do our best to ensure you live a long, productive life after your liver transplant. National data show that Duke’s adult liver transplant outcomes are among the nation’s best.
Success with the Most Challenging Cases
We have the experience and resources to offer hope to people who need a liver transplant who have been turned down by other centers. We work closely with cardiologists, infectious disease doctors, and pulmonologists who specialize in evaluating patients for liver transplantation. Our success comes from the dedication of each team member to providing personalized care for each patient.