Ursodeoxycholic Acid in Pediatric Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

A large retrospective study (M Deneau, M Perito, A Ricciuto, N Gupta et al. J Pediatr 2019; 209: 92-6) examined the outcomes/response of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) for pediatric primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

Background:

  • “Within 10 years of diagnosis, 30% of children with PSC will require liver transplantation and 50% of children will develop complications, including biliary strictures and hypertension.”
  • Because UDCA has not been shown to improve survival (& may worsen outcomes), it is not recommended in adults by the AASLD.
  • In pediatrics, UDCA remains the most common treatment, used in more that 80% on long-term treatment

Study population/methods:

  • 263 patients at 46 centers
  • Median age 12.1 years
  • UDCA median dose: 15 mg/kg/day

Key findings:

  • Normalization of GGT (<50 IU/L) occurred in 46% of patients in the first year after diagnosis
  • Patients with normalization was less likely among patients with Crohn’s disease and those with laboratory profiles indicative of more advanced hepatobiliary fibrosis (eg. lower platelet count, lower albumin, hyperbilirubinemia)
  • The 5-year survival with native liver was 99% in those who achieved normalization vs 77% in those who did not
  • Even in those without normalization, improvement in GGT was associated with better outcomes. “Those who had a reduction in GGT of >75% had nearly the same long-term survival as those with GGT<50 IU/L at 1 year.”
  • It has previously been shown that nearly “one-third of children who are UDCA-naive have spontaneous GGT normalization by 1 year.”  Thus, the number to treat with UDCA to have one additional case of GGT normalization is four.
  • In a previous study, one-third of patients with GGT normalization on UDCA therapy for 1 year, maintained GGT <29 after withdrawal of UDCA for 12 weeks.

The authors note that “patients who do not achieve normalization could reasonably stop UDCA as they are likely not receiving clinical benefit.”

My take: This study shows that patients who have improvement/normalization of GGT with UDCA therapy have improved outcomes.  The retrospective design of the study limits conclusions about whether UDCA therapy actually improves long-term outcomes, particularly since UDCA at higher doses has been associated with detrimental affects in adults with PSC.

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Pablo Picasso, Le Compotier (Fruit Bowl) at Sofia Reina
https://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/collection/artwork/compotier-fruit-bowl

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Liver Briefs -June 2019 part 2

E Cowell et al. JPGN 2019; 68: 695-99. This study reviewed 61 cases of pediatric hepatocellular carcinoma to determine predisposing conditions  (in Houston TX).  The majority did NOT have recognizable predisposing conditions.  25 of 61 (41%) had a predisposing condition including cryptogenic cirrhosis/steatosis (9), genetic (7), biliary pathology (4), viral hepatitis (1), and other (4).  Those without a recognizable predisposing condition were diagnosed later and with more advanced disease/decreased survival.

VA McLin et al. JPGN 2019; 68: 615-22. Useful review on congenital portosystemic shunts.

DE Kaplan et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 156: 1693-1706. This large study form the VA with more than 70,000 patients examined the relationship between statin exposure and survival in patients with cirrhosis.  “Each cumulative year of statin exposure was associated with an independent 8-8.7% decrease of mortality of patients with cirrhosis of Child-Turcotte-Pugh classes A and B.”

AG Singal et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 156: 1683-1692. Direct-acting antiviral therapy was not associated with recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in a multicenter cohort study with 793 patients with HCV-associated HCC. Thus, DAAs appear safe in patients who have achieved a complete response to HCC Rx

Liver Briefs -June 2019

YH Yeo et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 1385-97.  The prevalence of high risk individuals in the U.S. who are susceptible (not immune) to hepatitis B has decreased from 83% to 69% from 2003 to 2014.  That still leaves 64 million who would benefit from HBV vaccination.

M Sharma et al. Hepatology 2019; 69: 1657-75. This meta-analysis compared therapies for primary prevention of esophageal varices and concluded that nonselective beta-blocker (NSBB) monotherapy may decrease all-cause mortality and carried a lower risk of serious complications than variceal band ligation (VBL). However, the commentary (1382-84 by L Laine) reaches a different conclusion. “Current recommendations for primary prevention with VBL or NSBB or carvediolo still appear to be acceptable…using a shared decision-making approach” to weigh issue such as daily medication or periodic endoscopy.

J Nguyen et al. J Pediatr 2019; 207: 90-6. This study modeled the cost-effectiveness of early treatment with direct-acting antiviral therapy in adolescents with hepatitis C infection.  With pangenotypic agenst, the cost would be $10000 to $21000 per QALY gained.

S Trinh et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 948-56. This retrospective hepatitis B study examined the changes in renal function between 239 tenofovir disoproxil fumarte (TDF) treated patients and 171 entecavir treated patients.  Key finding: TDF was not associated with higher risk of worsening renal function in this cohort with a mean followup of 43-46 months in patients with baseline normal renal function.  In patients with renal impairment, deterioration of renal function was noted in TDF-treated patients.  Thus, TDF should be avoided in patients with impaired renal function.

 

Rhododendrom in Sandy Springs

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How Does USA Compare to Other Countries in Pediatric Liver Transplantation

A recent study (B Fischler et al. JPGN 2019; 68: 700-05) compared the similarities and differences in allocation experience among 15 countries based on a survey completed by a representative hepatologist in each country.

Key findings:

  • The number of liver transplants was 4 to 9 million inhabitants younger than 18 years for 13 of the 15 respondents. USA had the 5th highest rate at ~7 per million inhabitants (Figure 2)
  • USA had the 3rd highest donation rate per million inhabitants, ~26 per million.  Spain had highest rate at 35 per million.  This is partly related to Spain allocating all nonugent pediatric cadaveric donors to pediatric candidates.
  • USA had the 3rd lowest rate of living-related liver transplantation percentage in children < 2 yrs, approximately 10%.  Both Turkey and Poland had rates near 90%.
  • USA had one of the lowest rates of %split liver transplantations for children <2 yrs, less than 10%. Italy, Netherlands, and New Zealand had rates near 90%.
  • USA had the 4th highest waitlist mortality for children <2 yrs, approximately 11%

My take: This study indicates that the rate of split liver transplants and living related liver transplants are much lower in USA than in other countries.  This is likely to reduce donor pool and contribute to increased waiting list mortality.

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Steroid-Free Approach in Autoimmune Hepatitis

A recent case report (A Wehrman et al. J Pediatr 2019; 207: 244-7) described steroid free treatment of autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) in 8 patients.

This retrospective review of all patients with AIH at CHOP between 2009-2014 compared patients who had AIH treated with (n=12) and without steroids (aka azathioprine monotherapy). Near normalization of ALT was defined as less than 2 x ULN.

Key findings:

  • All children in the steroid group had normalization of liver enzymes by 12 months of therapy compared with only 2 of 8 in the steroid-free group. Though, near normalization of ALT occurred at a median of 5.5 months in the steroid free group (compared with 1.8 months in the steroid group).
  • Adverse effects were evident in 75% of the steroid group compared with 11% of the steroid-free group

The authors conclude that “liver enzymes may take longer to normalize without steroids, but this difference was not statistically significant in our small cohort, nor did it lead to any adverse outcomes.”

My take: Standard therapy for AIH is prednisone for induction with subsequent azathioprine.  This study shows that in patients unwilling to take steroids or with intolerance that azathioprine monotherapy may be an effective alternative though liver enzymes are likely to take much longer to improve.

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Barcelona/Mediterranean Sea

More Data, More Nuance with MMP-7: Best Biliary Atresia Biomarker

As noted by my previous blog (New Way to Diagnose Biliary Atresia), I am enthusiastic about the development of MMP-7 (Serum Matrix Metalloproteinase-7) as a biomarker for biliary atresia.

A new study (Wu J-F , Jeng Y-M, Chen H-L, Ni Y-H, Hsu H-Y, Chang M-H. Quantification of serum matrix metallopeptide 7 levels may assist the diagnosis and outcome prediction for biliary atresia. J Pediatr. 2019;208:30–7) and associated editorial provide additional data and nuance.

Key points:

  • “Wu et … studied 100 cholestatic infants presenting consecutively to their institution over a 10-year period, including 36 eventually diagnosed with biliary atresia. Median serum MMP-7 levels were significantly higher in biliary atresia at the time of diagnosis, with an optimal serum MMP-7 level of >1.43 ng/mL for predicting biliary atresia.  In comparison, similarly high MMP-7 levels were found in only 1 infant who was cholestatic without biliary atresia.”
  • “The authors found that serum MMP-7 levels were significantly lower in the 14 infants ≤30 days old diagnosed with biliary atresia, compared with the 22 infants >30 days old at diagnosis. In some cases, serum MMP-7 levels in younger infants with biliary atresia overlapped with those from infants with other liver diseases, such as neonatal hepatitis.”
  • After Kasai portoenterostomy: “Serum MMP-7 levels were significantly higher 6 months post-Kasai portoenterostomy in infants who later required liver transplant, with a serum MMP-7 level of >10.30 mg/dL optimally predicting transplant 3-4 years after Kasai portoenterostomy … serum MMP-7 levels are still high even in patients who do not need liver transplant.”
  • The authors “highlight 1 complication with using serum MMP-7 levels: values can vary widely among different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits used.”

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Sagrada Familia -work in progress.  Amazing.

 

How Often Do Children with Obesity Have a Fatty Liver?

According to a recent study (EL Yu et al. J Pediatr 2019; 207: 64-70), about one-third of boys and one-fourth of girls with obesity have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

This study from San Diego with 408 children aged 9-17 years (mean 13.2 years) with obesity evaluated for NAFLD with laboratories (to exclude other etiologies) and with liver MRI proton density fat fraction (PDFF), with ≥5% considered the threshold for NAFLD.

Key findings:

  • Prevalence of NAFLD was 26% in this population, with 29.4% in males and 22.6% in females
  • The optimal cut offs of ALT for detecting NAFLD in this study were ≥30 U/L for females and ≥42 U/L for males. These are much lower than NASPGHAN guidelines which proposed ≥80 U/L or twice the ULN as thresholds for further investigation.  (The NASPGHAN recommendations are likely to have higher specificity in identifying children at greater risk for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).)

Limitations:

  • 77% of this cohort were hispanic, thus prevalence may vary significantly in other populations.
  • MRI-PDFF -the exact cut off is unclear.  The authors note that if 3.5% were chosen, the NAFLD prevalence jumped to 49.3% (according to Table II –though the discussion stated 53.2%)

My take: Understanding the likelihood of NAFLD in children at risk is a helpful first step.  This study points to the growing use of non-invasive diagnosis with MRI.

On a related topic, briefly noted: “Obesity in Adolescents and Youth: The Case for and against Bariatric Surgery” (A Khattab, MA Sperling. J Pediatr 2019; 207: 18-22). In this review, the authors refer frequently to endocrine society guidelines (J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2017; 102: 709-57).    These guidelines generally recommend bariatric surgery only under specific conditions (eg. completion of Tanner 4 or 5 along with a BMI of 40 kg/m-squared or BMI of 35 with significant extreme comorbidities after failure of lifestyle modifications & without untreated psychiatric illness).  This review predicts increasing use of bariatric surgery in adolescents “as more data on long-term outcomes in larger cohorts become known.”

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Related blog posts on bariatric surgery: