The time change of laboratory variables in cirrhosis was studied by analysis of data from 488 patients with cirrhosis included in a controlled clinical trial of long-term prednisone vs. placebo.

In the placebo group, a marked regression towards normal was seen within 3 months of entry into the trial (increase in serum albumin, acetylcholinesterase, cholesterol, hemoglobin and decrease in erythrocyte sedimentation rate). The subsequent course did not show a clear pattern, except for a slight increase in serum bilirubin and decrease in albumin. When studied in relation to the time of death in patients dying from a “hepatic” cause, marked increase in bilirubin and decrease in prothrombin index, albumin and cholesterol were seen in the year prior to death with little change before that time.

In the prednisone group, a more marked decrease in bilirubin, SGOT, alkaline phosphatase, γ-globulin, sulfobromophthalein retention, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and increase in leukocytes, prothrombin index and cholesterol were seen during the first 3 months. In relation to time of death from a “hepatic” cause, similar changes were seen as in the placebo group except that alkaline phosphatase increased and cholesterol did not decrease.

A beneficial effect of prednisone on survival, as expressed by a previously developed therapeutic index, was associated with decrease in SGOT, alkaline phosphatase and γ-globulin within the first 3 months. An increase in SGOT during prednisone seemed to be associated with harmful effects of therapy.