How Elastic is Your Liver?

Liver cancer can be predicted by testing liver stiffness

(RxWiki News) You probably don't think about the elasticity of your organs. But when it comes to the liver, the lack of elasticity is an important measure of health.

Researchers from Spain found that liver stiffness can help to predict liver failure, liver cancer and the lifespan of people with cirrhosis of the liver who also have HIV/AIDS and the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

"If you've ever used intravenous drugs, get tested for hepatitis C."

Researchers used a test called transient elastography to measure liver firmness, which they say can also predict recovery from cirrhosis.

For this study, Dr. Nicolás Merchante from the Unidad de Enfermedades Infecciosas, Hospital Universitario de Valme in Seville, Spain conducted a multi-center study of cirrhotic patients who were also infected with HCV and HIV.

The study involved 239 HIV/HCV patients who had been newly diagnosed with cirrhosis. They were followed for between nine and 34 months.

During the study period, which began in 2006, 13 percent of the patients developed liver failure, technically called decompensation.

The researchers tested liver stiffness using transient elastography. Of the 181 people who had a stiffness measure of less than 40 kPa, 8 percent had liver failure.

This compares to 29 percent of the 58 patients who had readings higher than 40 kPa.

Getting a liver transplant is the only way to treat end-stage liver disease.

These findings confirm the predictive value of the Child-Turcotte-Pugh (CTP) or model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) scores - the methods used to prioritize patients waiting for a liver transplant..

"Earlier recognition of cirrhosis and optimal treatment of cirrhotic patients at the initial stages are critical," Dr. Merchante said.

This research was published in the July issue of Hepatology.

Funded by Consejería de Salud de la Junta de Andalucía, Servicio Andaluz de Salud, Fundación para la Investigación y la Prevención del SIDA en España (FIPSE), Fundación Progreso y Salud of the Consejería de Salud de la Junta de Andalucía and Instituto de Salud Carlos III.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
July 13, 2012