For patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection, changes in liver stiffness measurement (LSM) over time are not known. We examined changes longitudinally in a cohort of patients. Four hundred and twenty-six patients with CHB underwent transient elastography. Patients were followed regularly, and repeat elastography was performed at 3 years.
Hepatitis serology, viral load and routine liver biochemistry were monitored. Of the 426 patients, 38 (9%) were hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg)-positive, 293 (69%) were HBeAg-negative and 95 (22%) were patients with prior hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) seroclearance. A total of 110 patients received oral antiviral therapy.
There was a significant decline of LSMs at the follow-up measurement compared to baseline (6.1 vs 7.8 kPa respectively, P = 0.002) in treated patients who had elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) at baseline and subsequent normalization after 3 years (normal ALT limit being 30 U/L for males and 19 U/L for females). In nontreated patients, only the patients with persistently normal ALT at both time points had significantly lower LSMs at the follow-up measurement compared to baseline: 4.9 vs 5.3 kPa, respectively, in patients who remained positive for HBsAg (P = 0.005) and 5.1 vs 5.4 kPa, respectively, in patients who had HBsAg seroclearance (P = 0.026). In patients who remained positive for HBsAg, independent factors associated with a significant decline in LSM of ≥1 kPa included antiviral therapy (P = 0.011) and the ALT levels at the follow-up time point (P = 0.024). Thus, in patients with CHB, a significant decline in LSM after 3 years was observed in treated patients with ALT normalization and in untreated patients who had persistently normal ALT.
Antiviral therapy and follow-up ALT levels were independent significant factors associated with a decline in LSM.