A total of 123 patients with neonatal liver disease without extrahepatic bile duct obstruction or arteriohepatic dysplasia have been studied for six to 18 years. Idiopathic neonatal hepatitis, present in 73 babies, carried a high mortality due to liver failure (18%), septicaemia (6%), and associated defects (14%), especially in the first year of life (25%). Progression to chronic liver disease in non-familial idiopathic cases occurred in three of 40 reviewed patients. Only 12 of these children were completely healthy, the remainder having other permanent disabilities (57%). Four of nine familial cases of idiopathic neonatal hepatitis died in the first 12 months of life as did two of the four reviewed survivors. Progression to chronic liver disease or to death was a continuous process without any interval of recovery in all but one of these patients. Among patients with a presumed infective cause, cytomegalovirus infection caused a particularly benign form of neonatal hepatitis but was a frequent cause of brain damage or other disabilities. Babies who survived other infective liver diseases showed complete healing of the liver damage. Neonatal liver disease associated with alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency progressed to death or chronic liver disease in three of nine patients and was not associated with a paucity of interlobular bile ducts.
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