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Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2005 Jul-Aug;23(4):517-20.

Methotrexate use in rheumatoid arthritis is associated with few clinically significant liver function test abnormalities.

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  • 1Hospital for Special Surgery, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, USA.



To determine the frequency of liver function tests (LFT) abnormalities associated with methotrexate (MTX) use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


A retrospective chart review for demographic information, RA-specific history, medication history, complications of therapy, results of all available blood tests (specifically aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), complete blood count (CBC), albumin, creatinine), and liver biopsy reports was conducted for RA patients, who were currently using or have used MTX in the past.


A total of 2791 LFTs were performed among 182 RA patients with 94 abnormal results. 152 patients (83.5%) with 2007 LFT evaluations demonstrated no abnormal results, compared with 30 patients (16.5%) who had at least one abnormal LFT in 784 tests. Twenty-two of the 30 patients with at least one LFT abnormality (73.3%) continued treatment despite the elevation without further evaluation or change in therapy, and subsequent LFT assessments were within normal limits. 128 patients (70.3%) remained on MTX at the time of our study. The most common reason for discontinuation was inadequate response.


MTX appears to be associated with very few clinically significant hepatic side effects. In view of these data, consideration as to revision of the current MTX monitoring guidelines in the direction of less frequent monitoring, especially in patients with no risk factors for liver disease, may be considered.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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