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World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(14):2256-61. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i14.2256.

Disease progression in chronic hepatitis C patients with normal alanine aminotransferase levels.

Author information

1
Department of Internal Medicine, Sanggye Paik Hospital, Inje University School of Medicine, Seoul 139-707, South Korea.

Abstract

AIM:

To investigate whether the disease progression of chronic hepatitis C patients with normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels differs by ALT levels.

METHODS:

A total of 232 chronic hepatitis C patients with normal ALT (< 40 IU/L) were analyzed. The patients were divided into "high-normal" and "low-normal"ALT groups after determining the best predictive cutoff level associated with disease progression for each gender. The incidence of disease progression, as defined by the occurrence of an increase of ≥ 2 points in the Child-Pugh score, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, bleeding gastric or esophageal varices, hepatic encephalopathy, the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, or death related to liver disease, were compared between the two groups.

RESULTS:

Baseline serum ALT levels were associated with disease progression for both genders. The best predictive cutoff baseline serum ALT level for disease progression was 26 IU/L in males and 23 IU/L in females. The mean annual disease progression rate was 1.2% and 3.9% for male patients with baseline ALT levels ≤ 25 IU/L (low-normal) and > 26 IU/L (high-normal), respectively (P = 0.043), and it was 1.4% and 4.8% for female patients with baseline ALT levels ≤ 22 IU/L (low-normal) and > 23 IU/L (high-normal), respectively (P = 0.023). ALT levels fluctuated during the follow-up period. During the follow-up, more patients with "high-normal" ALT levels at baseline experienced ALT elevation (> 41 IU/L) than did patients with "low-normal" ALT levels at baseline (47.7% vs 27.9%, P = 0.002). The 5 year cumulative incidence of disease progression was significantly lower in patients with persistently "low-normal" ALT levels than "high-normal" ALT levels or those who exhibited an ALT elevation > 41 U/L during the follow-up period (0%, 8.3% and 34.3%, P < 0.001).

CONCLUSION:

A "high normal" ALT level in chronic hepatitis C patients was associated with disease progression, suggesting that the currently accepted normal threshold of serum ALT should be lowered.

KEYWORDS:

Alanine aminotransferase; Disease progression; Hepatitis C virus; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Upper limits of normal

PMID:
23599653
PMCID:
PMC3627891
DOI:
10.3748/wjg.v19.i14.2256
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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