Direct targeting of risk factors significantly increases the detection of liver cirrhosis in primary care: a cross-sectional diagnostic study utilising transient elastography

2015 BMJ Open 5;4 (e007516)

OBJECTIVES: To assess the feasibility of a novel diagnostic algorithm targeting patients with risk factors for chronic liver disease in a community setting. DESIGN: Prospective cross-sectional study. SETTING: Two primary care practices (adult patient population 10,479) in Nottingham, UK. PARTICIPANTS: Adult patients (aged 18 years or over) fulfilling one or more selected risk factors for developing chronic liver disease: (1) hazardous alcohol use, (2) type 2 diabetes or (3) persistently elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) liver function enzyme with negative serology. INTERVENTIONS: A serial biomarker algorithm, using a simple blood-based marker (aspartate aminotransferase:ALT ratio for hazardous alcohol users, BARD score for other risk groups) and subsequently liver stiffness measurement using transient elastography (TE). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Diagnosis of clinically significant liver disease (defined as liver stiffness >/=8 kPa); definitive diagnosis of liver cirrhosis. RESULTS: We identified 920 patients with the defined risk factors of whom 504 patients agreed to undergo investigation. A normal blood biomarker was found in 62 patients (12.3%) who required no further investigation. Subsequently, 378 patients agreed to undergo TE, of whom 98 (26.8% of valid scans) had elevated liver stiffness. Importantly, 71/98 (72.4%) patients with elevated liver stiffness had normal liver enzymes and would be missed by traditional investigation algorithms. We identified 11 new patients with definite cirrhosis, representing a 140% increase in the number of diagnosed cases in this population. CONCLUSIONS: A non-invasive liver investigation algorithm based in a community setting is feasible to implement. Targeting risk factors using a non-invasive biomarker approach identified a substantial number of patients with previously undetected cirrhosis. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: The diagnostic algorithm utilised for this study can be found on clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02037867), and is part of a continuing longitudinal cohort study.

Pubmed : 25941185