Liver Shorts -February 2020

Caution with hemoglobin A1c interpretation: MM Kelsey et al. J Pediatr 2020; 216: 232-5. In the HEALTHY Study (n=8814), the authors note that a hemoglobin A1c was ≥5.7% in 2% of normal weight youth.  “This suggests need for cautious interpretation of prediabetes hemoglobin A1cs in youth”

Daily aspirin for NAFLD: TG Simon et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 2776-84.  In this prospective cohort of 361 adults with biopsy-proven NAFLD, the use of daily aspirin (in 151) was associated with lower odds of NASH (aOR.68) and reduced risk of  fibrosis (aOR 0.54).  “The greatest benefit found with at least 4 years or more of aspirin use” (aHR =0.50).  The associated editorial (pages 2651-3) recommends controlled studies to determine if potential benefits outweigh the known risks (eg. bleeding).

Glecaprevir/pibrentasvir for HCV Treatment Failure:  AS Lok et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 157: 1506-17.  This randomized study with 177 patients showed that 16 weeks of glecaprevir and pibrentasvir was effective in retreatment of patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C viral infection (after prior failure with sofosbuvir plus an NS5A inhibitor).  The sustained virologic response 12 weeks after treatment was >90%.

Liver transplantation for Niemann-Pick Disease, type B:  YLY Luo et al. Liver Transplantation 2019; 25: 1233-40. This report analyzed 7 children receiving liver transplantation for Niemann-Pick disease, type B.  The authors report survival in the entire cohort and with normalized liver function within 3 weeks.  In addition, they noted improvement in psychomotor ability ( 10 months after transplantation) and resolution of insterstitial lung disease.  They state that developmental delay still existed in 4 patients during follow-up.  The editorial (1140-1) notes that these findings need to be confirmed but open a new window in improving the phenotype.  “A similar experience occurred with LT in maple syrup urine disease (MSUD), in which the liver is considered to host only 12-15% of the defective  enzyme responsible for the disease…in MSUD, liver replacement is able to counteract 85% of extrahepatic expression of the disease and to completely correct the phenotype.”

Increased Abdominal-Surgery Risk in Patients with Idiopathic Noncirrhotic Portal Hypertension: L Elkrief et al. Hepatology 2019; 70: 911-24. Among 44 patients (median age 44 years) with noncirrhoitic portal hypertension, 16 (33%) had one or more portal hypertension-related complication within 3 months after surgery.  4 (9%) died within 6 months.  “An unfavorable outcome (i.e. either liver or surgical complication or death) occurred in 22 (50%) patients” and was more likely in those with ascites, creatinine >100 micromol/L, or other extrahepatic complications related to portal hypertension.

One of my blog readers shared this image of “Liver Shorts” that can be purchased online

#NASPGHAN19 Liver Symposium (Part 3)

Although I was unable to attend this year’s liver symposium at NASPGHAN19, I reviewed the lecture notes.  There is some terrific content.  Here are some of the slides (borrowed with permission from NASPGHAN).

Link to complete NASPGHAN Chronic Liver Disease Symposium 2019

SESSION III – UPDATE ON PORTAL HTN: ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT

What do I do now? The management of portal hypertensive complications: Varices, ascites, and encephalopathy Rene Romero, MD, Children’s Hospital of Atlanta

When there is good function, but the flow is all wrong: Approach to non-cirrhotic portal hypertension Evelyn Hsu, MD, Seattle Children’s Hospital

The role of the interventional radiologist in the treatment of portal HTN: How can I help you?  Jared R. Green, MD, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (SLIDES NOT AVAILABLE)

When to consider surgery in the treatment of portal HTN?  Riccardo Superina, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, Northwestern University  (SLIDES NOT AVAILABLE)

Liver Briefs -July 2019

NH Ebel et al. JPGN 2019; 68: 788-92Hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) did not correlate with the risk of complications from portal hypertension in this pediatric cohort (n=41); this is in contrast to studies in adults showing the utility of HVPG measurements.

AG Singal et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 156: 2149-57. AGA Practice Update on Direct-Acting Antivirals for Hepatitis C and Hepatocellular Carcinoma. There are 12 best practice advice –here are the first three:

  • BEST PRACTICE ADVICE 1: DAA treatment is associated with a reduction in the risk of incident HCC. The relative risk reduction is similar in patients with and without cirrhosis.
  • BEST PRACTICE ADVICE 2: Patients with advanced liver fibrosis (F3) or cirrhosis should receive surveillance imaging before initiating DAA treatment.
  • BEST PRACTICE ADVICE 3: Patients with advanced liver fibrosis (F3) or cirrhosis at the time of DAA treatment represent the highest-risk group for HCC after DAA-induced sustained virologic response. These patients should stay in HCC surveillance

N Hamdane et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 156: 2313-29. This study found that chronic HCV infection induced specific genome-wide-changes in H3K27ac which correlated with expression of mRNAs and proteins.  These epigenetic changes persisted after an SVR to DAAs or interferon-based therapies. These changes could explain some of the reason why HCC remains a risk after successful treatment with DAAs.

DT Dieterich et al. Gastroenteroloy & Hepatology 2019; 15S: 3-11 Link: “A simplified algorithm for the management of Hepatitis C Infection”  An excerpt:

“The algorithm begins with universal HCV screening and diagnosis by testing for HCV antibody with reflex to polymerase chain reaction to detect HCV RNA. The pretreatment evaluation uses platelet-based stratification to initially assess fibrosis, and the pan-genotypic regimens glecaprevir/pibrentasvir or sofosbuvir/velpatasvir are recommended for treatment. Unless clinically indicated, on-treatment monitoring is optional. Confirmation of cure (undetectable HCV RNA 12 weeks posttreatment) is followed by harm-reduction measures, as well as surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma every 6 months in patients with advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis.”  My take: This algorithm is much simpler than the expanded recommendations from HCVguidelines.org website, though these agents, to my knowledge, do not yet have a pediatric indication.

 

When Should a Spleen Guard Be Recommended?

A survey (O Waisbourd-Zinman, et al. JPGN 2018; 66: 447-49) of 44 pediatric hepatologists (with 935 years of clinical practice) examined the issue of splenic rupture and spleen guards.  ~90% of those surveyed reported following at least 30 patients with portal hypertension and splenomegaly.

  • In total, the hepatologists could recall 13 cases of splenic rupture among patients with portal hypertension/splenomegaly due to cirrhosisalmost all of these occurred after a fall or in a motor vehicle accident.  Only one of these falls happened during a sports-related event (soccer).
  • 11 cases were serious. 9 of these cases resulted in shock with subsequent splenectomy, embolization, and/or death. Death reported in 2 cases.
  • In this survey,  61% of hepatologists recommended “absolute restriction from activity with high risk of blunt abdominal trauma;” whereas 23% indicated that activities with risk of blunt trauma were acceptable if wearing a spleen guard.
  • To prevent splenic rupture in patients with portal hypertension/splenomegaly, among the participating hepatologists, the majority identified the following ‘high risk’ sports: football (95%), hockey (82%), and wrestling (66%).  A smaller percentage advocated a spleen guard for skiing (42%), soccer (41%), basketball (30%) and other sports.

While I did not participate in this survey, the one patient with chronic liver disease that I followed who had a splenic rupture had fallen down a flight of steps; fortunately, he recovered with supportive care.

My take: This survey shows that there is wide variability in the use of spleen guards.  In almost all cases of splenic rupture, this was precipitated by severe trauma.  Though, patients with portal hypertension may avoid high contact sports and thus the risks are for these sports is unclear.

Related blog post:

Foggy Morning in Sandy Springs

Statin Use for Patients with Cirrhosis

There have been a number of studies suggesting a beneficial effect of statins for individuals chronic liver disease due to HBV infection, HCV infection, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. The potential reasons include lower portal hypertension due to increased nitric oxide availability, anti-inflammatory effects through reduction in some cytokines, and antifibrotic effects. In addition, statins may inhibit tumor initiation/hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

The background on these prior studies is detailed in a new population-based study (F-M Chang et al Hepatology 2017; 66: 896-907, editorial 697-9) of statins in patients with cirrhosis. In this nested case-control study from Taiwan, the authors examined patients (n=1350) with cirrhosis from 2000 to 2013.  The index cases of cirrhosis were identified among a representative, well-validated general population database of 1,000,000 people.

Key findings:

  • “Statin use decreased the risk of decompensation, mortality, and HCC in a dose-dependent manner.”
  • Risk of decompensation among chronic HBV statin users, HR 0.39
  • Risk of decompensation among chronic HCV statin users, HR 0.51
  • Risk of decompensation among alcohol-related cirrhosis patients taking statins, HR 0.69

My take: In adults with cirrhosis, particularly HBV-related and HCV-related, taking a statin was associated with a 50-60% lower likelihood of decompensation. A prospective study could confirm these findings.

Prague -Charles Bridge

“This Is A Stick Up — Your Money or Your Life”

When I read a recent Hepatology editorial (Hepatology 2015; 61: 1106-8), I could not help think of the aforementioned title of this blog.

Here’s the scoop:

The two most commonly used medications for Wilson’s disease are trientine (Syprine) and D-penicillamine (Cupramine). For about 20 years, the original manufacturer of these medications kept the consumer cost at ~$1 per 250 mg tablet.  Currently the cost of Syprine is ~$200 per 250 mg tablet and Cuprimine costs ~$55 per 250 mg tablet.  This 200-fold increase translates into a yearly cost of ~$300,000.

How did this happen?

  • Little competition
  • Profit motive
  • Patients are reluctant to protest (they need this medication to be manufactured)

Why is this outrageous?

This increase in cost was not driven by any new discovery or research innovation.

Are there options?

Zinc is inexpensive and may be an option after initial period of chelation/normalization of liver biochemistries.  Zinc needs to be taken two to three times per day and “well away from meals for best absorption.”

Bottomline: These medication prices are outrageous.

Briefly noted:

  • “Molecular pathophysiology of portal hypertension”  Hepatology 2015; 61: 1406-15. Terrific review with excellent figures.
  • “Ezetimibe for the treatment of Nonacloholic Steatohepatitis” (MOZART trial) Hepatology 2015; 61: 1239-50. This randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 50 patients (biopsy-proven NASH) showed that Ezetimbe was not significantly different from placebo in histologic response rates, serum aminotransferases, or in magnetic resonance elastography findings.
  • Van Biervliet et al. “Clinical Zinc Deficiency as Early Presentation of Wilson Disease” JPGN 2015; 60: 457-9. Case report.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 8.55.40 PM

Outcome of “Successful” Biliary Atresia Patients

A recent publication (J Pediatr 2014; 165: 539-546) from the Childhood Liver Disease Research and Education Network (CHiLDREN) provides a strong rationale for close followup of biliary atresia (BA) patients with their native livers.  The Biliary Atresia Study of Infants and Children (BASIC) is one of the ongoing longitudinal studies within CHiLDREN.

Among a cross-sectional study BASIC cohort of 219 children (median age 9.7 years) who survived with their native livers for at least 5 years, they had the following findings:

  • In preceding 12 months, cholangitis occurred in 17%, and 62% had experienced cholangitis at least once following hepatoportoenterostomy (HPE) (also called Kasai procedure.  The authors note wide discrepancy in usage of prophylactic antibiotics; some stop at 2 years following HPE and some never stop antibiotic prophylaxis.
  • In preceding 12 months, bone fractures occurred in 5.5%.  Overall, 15% had had at least one bone fracture at some point, which is higher than the general population. Only 14.6% of entire cohort were receiving vitamin D supplementation.
  • Portal hypertension: clinically detectable splenomegaly, thrombocytopenia, ascites, and variceal hemorrhage were seen in 56%, 43%, 17%, and 9% of patients in this cohort.
  • Health-related quality of life was reported as normal in 53%
  • Mean height and weight z-scores were normal in this cohort.
  • Over 98% had clinical or biochemical evidence of chronic liver disease.

Full-text Link

Bottomline: This BASIC study shows the need for careful followup of “successful” biliary atresia patients and provides more accurate data regarding risks of specific complications.

Briefly noted: J Pediatr 2014; 165: 547-55.  In this study with same first author (Vicky Ng), the investigators develop and validate a pediatric liver transplantation (LT) quality of live instrument for LT patients aged 8-18 years.

Related blog posts: