BACKGROUND/AIMS: Incomplete septal cirrhosis (ISC) is a form of macronodular cirrhosis characterized by slender, incomplete septa that demarcate inconspicuous nodules. Its clinical features have not been investigated in a large series. The aims of this study were to review the clinical symptoms and evolution of ISC in 42 patients. METHODS: Forty-two patients with at least one liver biopsy strongly suggestive of ISC were selected for the study covering a period between 1968 and 1987. Data for these patients were compared with the evolution of 49 patients with classical macronodular cirrhosis after chronic active hepatitis type B or C. RESULTS: Possible etiological factors for ISC were alcohol abuse, arsenic treatment, and hepatitis B infection. In three cases, a genetic factor could not be excluded. Patients with ISC had significantly lower serum concentrations of transaminases and bilirubin at diagnosis. Compared with macronodular cirrhosis, bleeding varices were more frequent (57% vs. 22%) in ISC. Ten-year survivals in the ISC and the macronodular cirrhosis groups were 54% and 57%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: ISC represents a relatively stable burnt-out form of macronodular cirrhosis with an unusually high incidence of variceal bleeding. This could be explained by a superimposed insufficiency of the portal vascular supply.