Indian childhood cirrhosis (ICC) is an almost uniformly fatal disease whose outcome may be modified with penicillamine if given at a sufficiently early stage. Twenty nine children with ICC seen in Pune, India, in 1980-7, who had survived at least five years from onset of penicillamine treatment, were reviewed aged 6.3 to 13 years. They were assessed clinically, biochemically, histologically, and by duplex Doppler ultrasound examination. None had symptoms suggestive of liver disease. There were no toxic effects of penicillamine other than asymptomatic proteinuria. Hepatosplenomegaly reduced significantly and liver function tests returned to normal in all. In four children, significant hepatosplenomegaly was associated with an abnormal duplex Doppler hepatic vein flow pattern and micronodular cirrhosis on biopsy. Clinical findings, growth and development, and ultrasound examination were normal in the remainder. Review of serial liver biopsy specimens showed a sequence of recovery from ICC through inactive micronodular cirrhosis to virtually normal histological appearances. The four children who still have micronodular cirrhosis beyond four years from onset remain on penicillamine treatment. In the others penicillamine was stopped after 1-7 (mean 3.5) years without relapse, strong evidence that ICC is not due to an inborn error of copper metabolism.
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