Stratifying Cystic Fibrosis Liver Disease with Ultrasonography

A recent multicenter case-controlled study (MJ Siegel, J Freeman, W Ye et al. J Pediatr 2020; 219: 62-9) show that ultrasonography can identify children with cystic fibrosis (CF) at increased risk for developing advanced CF liver disease; it is well-recognized that currently advanced CF liver disease occurs predominantly in children.

Among 722 participants who underwent ultrasonography as part of a planned 9 year research study, 65 had heterogeneous liver pattern and 592 had a normal liver pattern at baseline.

Key findings at planned 4-year interim analysis in a subgroup of 55 with (baseline) heterogeneous liver pattern and 116 with (baseline) normal liver pattern:

  • Those with heterogeneous liver pattern had higher median biochemical markers of liver disease: ALT 42 vs 32, GGT 36 vs 15, AST to platelet ratio index: 0.7 vs 0.4
  • Those with heterogeneous liver pattern were at ~9-fold increased risk of developing a nodular liver pattern (23% vs. 2.6%).
  • The authors did not identify specific clinical risk factors that predict the development of nodular liver ultrasound pattern

My take: Even among those with a heterogeneous pattern, the majority will not develop a ultrasonography (nodular) pattern of advanced liver disease.  Much more insight in this area is needed with the advancement in medical treatments and with the more availability of elastography.

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