Medizinische Klinik 1, Klinikum der Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS:
In patients with advanced liver cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection antiviral therapy with peginterferon and ribavirin is feasible in selected cases only due to potentially life-threatening side effects. However, predictive factors associated with hepatic decompensation during antiviral therapy are poorly defined.
In a retrospective cohort study, 68 patients with HCV-associated liver cirrhosis (mean MELD score 9.18±2.72) were treated with peginterferon and ribavirin. Clinical events indicating hepatic decompensation (onset of ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, hospitalization) as well as laboratory data were recorded at baseline and during a follow up period of 72 weeks after initiation of antiviral therapy. To monitor long term sequelae of end stage liver disease an extended follow up for HCC development, transplantation and death was applied (240weeks, ±SD 136weeks).
Eighteen patients (26.5%) achieved a sustained virologic response. During the observational period a hepatic decompensation was observed in 36.8%. Patients with hepatic decompensation had higher MELD scores (10.84 vs. 8.23, p<0.001) and higher mean bilirubin levels (26.74 vs. 14.63 µmol/l, p<0.001), as well as lower serum albumin levels (38.2 vs. 41.1 g/l, p = 0.015), mean platelets (102.64 vs. 138.95/nl, p = 0.014) and mean leukocytes (4.02 vs. 5.68/nl, p = 0.002) at baseline as compared to those without decompensation. In the multivariate analysis the MELD score remained independently associated with hepatic decompensation (OR 1.56, 1.18-2.07; p = 0.002). When the patients were grouped according to their baseline MELD scores, hepatic decompensation occurred in 22%, 59%, and 83% of patients with MELD scores of 6-9, 10-13, and >14, respectively. Baseline MELD score was significantly associated with the risk for transplantation/death (p<0.001).
Our data suggest that the baseline MELD score predicts the risk of hepatic decompensation during antiviral therapy and thus contributes to decision making when antiviral therapy is discussed in HCV patients with advanced liver cirrhosis.