Normal or Near Normal Aminotransferase Levels in Patients with Alcoholic Cirrhosis

Link to article at PubMed

Am J Med Sci. 2021 Oct 4:S0002-9629(21)00355-4. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2021.09.012. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Alcoholic liver disease is caused by excessive alcohol consumption that results in an inflammatory response and fibrosis. We have recognized that patients with alcoholic cirrhosis often have unremarkable liver enzyme values.

METHODS: In this retrospective cohort analysis, we identified consecutive patients with documented alcoholic cirrhosis at an academic medical center who were admitted between January 1 2016 and December 1 2018. We examined clinical outcomes of patients as a function of whether the aspartate transaminase (AST) or alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was normal or abnormal. Likelihood chi-square analyses were utilized for group comparisons and t-tests were used for numerical data.

RESULTS: In the cohort of 78 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis (age 55, 26-75; 58% male) 70 had a normal ALT and 12 had a normal AST. The average AST for all patients was 59U/L ± 34U/L (ULN=35U/L), and the average ALT was 27U/L ± 13U/L (ULN=45U/L). The average INR was 1.5 ± 0.5 and total bilirubin was 3.7mg/dL ± 4.9mg/dL, and 20 patients had a normal bilirubin level, including only one with an abnormal ALT level. The average model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score was 19 ± 8 and 32% of patients died during the follow-up time period of 5 months. Decompensating events were identified in 78 (100%) patients. There was no correlation between complications or death and aminotransferase levels.

CONCLUSIONS: Aminotransferase levels are often unremarkable in patients with alcohol related cirrhosis and bear no relationship to clinical events or outcomes. Clinicians should be cautious when interpreting aminotransferases in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.

PMID:34619146 | DOI:10.1016/j.amjms.2021.09.012

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