BACKGROUND:Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) and cryptogenic chronic hepatitis (CCH) are important causes of liver failure in children, frequently necessitating orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). The aim of this study is to review disease progression and potential differences between subgroups of children with AIH and CCH. METHODS:The medical records of 65 children diagnosed with AIH or CCH between 1980 and 1998 were evaluated. RESULTS:The median age at presentation was 9 years, 8 months (range 4 months-19 years), and the median follow-up period was 8 years (range 3 months-18 years, 10 months). Forty-one patients (63%) were female. Twenty-eight patients were Hispanic, 28 were Caucasian, 8 were African-American, and 1 was Asian. Forty-three patients (66%) were diagnosed with type 1 AIH, 8 (12%) with type 2 AIH, and 14 (22%) with CCH. Forty patients (62%) underwent OLT (51% of those with type 1 AIH, 75% of those with type 2 AIH, and 86% of those with CCH). Thirteen (33%) of the transplanted patients experienced disease recurrence. African-American patients experienced a significantly higher rate of disease recurrence post-OLT than did Hispanic patients. Seven patients (11%) died, two without OLT, and five posttransplantation. CONCLUSIONS:AIH and CCH frequently necessitate OLT in children. CCH is a more aggressive disease than Type 1 AIH among children with these disorders. Ethnicity influences the rate of disease recurrence after liver transplantation.