Clin Mol Hepatol.  2020 Jul;26(3):364-375. 10.3350/cmh.2020.0012.

Low-level viremia and cirrhotic complications in patients with chronic hepatitis B according to adherence to entecavir

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Ulsan University Hospital, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Ulsan, Korea
  • 2Biomedical Research Center, Ulsan University Hospital, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Ulsan, Korea


Low-level viremia (LLV) after nucleos(t)ide analog treatment was presented as a possible cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB). However, detailed information on patients’ adherence in the real world was lacking. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of LLV on HCC development, mortality, and cirrhotic complications among patients according to their adherence to entecavir (ETV) treatment.
We performed a retrospective observational analysis of data from 894 consecutive adult patients with treatment-naïve CHB undergoing ETV treatment. LLV was defined according to either persistent or intermittent episodes of <2,000 IU/mL detectable hepatitis B virus DNA during the follow-up period. Good adherence to medication was defined as a cumulative adherence ≥90% per study period.
Without considering adherence in the entire cohort (n=894), multivariate analysis of the HCC incidence showed that LLV was an independent prognostic factor in addition to other traditional risk factors in the entire cohort (P=0.031). Good adherence group comprised 617 patients (69.0%). No significant difference was found between maintained virologic response and LLV groups in terms of the incidence of liver-related death or transplantation, HCC, and hepatic decompensation in good adherence group, according to multivariate analyses.
In patients with treatment-naïve CHB and good adherence to ETV treatment in the real world, LLV during treatment is not a predictive factor for HCC and cirrhotic complications. It may be unnecessary to adjust their antiviral agent for patients with good adherence who experience LLV during ETV treatment.


Hepatitis B; Medication adherence; Carcinoma, Hepatocellular; Liver cirrhosis
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