Osteopenia and osteoporosis in patients with end-stage liver disease caused by hepatitis C and alcoholic liver disease: Not just a cholestatic problem



Although best characterized in chronic cholestatic liver disease, osteopenic bone disease and fracturing are well-recognized complications of cirrhosis, particularly after liver transplantation. We sought to compare the prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis, to assess the effect of orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) on bone density, and to determine fracture rates before and after OLT in three groups of patients with advanced cirrhosis: patients with cirrhosis from hepatitis C virus (HCV) alone, from alcohol abuse (ALD), and from HCV in conjunction with alcohol abuse (HCV+ALD). Between 1991 and 2001, 207 consecutive patients who underwent OLT for HCV (68 patients), ALD (66), and HCV+ALD (73) were assessed clinically, biochemically, radiologically, and by bone densitometry. The baseline mean T score was lower in the HCV group than in the ALD group (−1.43 versus −0.87, P = .048) despite ALD patients having more advanced liver disease; patients with HCV+ALD had intermediate T scores. The pattern of significant bone loss at 4 months and 12 months was similar for all three groups. The baseline fracture rate was lowest in the HCV group and highest in the ALD group, despite the latter having the highest bone density. Fractures occurred in 17% of patients in the first year after transplantation, the majority being vertebral compression fractures. Patients with cirrhosis caused by HCV, ALD, or a combination of both should be screened for osteopenia, especially before OLT.