Significant liver damage in patients with bleeding disorders and chronic hepatitis C: Non-invasive assessment of liver fibrosis using transient elastography
Background: Many patients with bleeding disorders have been infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), mainly with genotype 1. Antiviral treatment is only effective in 50% of these patients and is often accompanied by serious side effects. Consequently, careful selection of patients for treatment is warranted. Liver biopsies are generally not performed in these patients because of increased bleeding risk and high costs. We therefore assessed liver fibrosis and cirrhosis non-invasively using liver stiffness measurement (LSM). Methods: We enrolled 124 patients with bleeding disorders and chronic hepatitis C. Liver fibrosis was assessed by LSM using Fibroscan®. In order to assess the validity of LSM in our hands, a separate group of 63 patients without bleeding disorders infected with HCV were evaluated with both LSM and biopsy. Results: In the validation study, liver elasticity was highly correlated with histological fibrosis stage (correlations coefficient 0.73, P < 0.001). Based on LSM, 18% of patients with bleeding disorders and chronic hepatitis C had severe fibrosis, and 17% had cirrhosis after 34 years of infection (range 14-40). However, the prevalence of cirrhosis based on laboratory and ultrasonographic findings was only 7%. Independent risk factors for an increase in LSM were older age at infection, higher body mass index, presence of viral co-infection, and male gender. Fifteen out of 59 patients (25%) with an apparent indication for treatment (significant fibrosis by LSM) agreed to start antiviral therapy within 3 months. Conclusions: We found an unexpected high number of patients with significant fibrosis and cirrhosis in patients with bleeding disorders and hepatitis C detected by LSM, with considerable impact on the management of the disease.