Is alanine aminotransferase a good marker of histologic hepatic damage in renal transplant patients with hepatitis C virus infection?


Maria Lucia Gomes Ferraz, Rua Machado Bittencourt 413, apto 81, 04044-001 São Paulo – SP, Brazil.
Tel.: 55-11-5014-7460; fax: +55-11-5014-7468;


Abstract:  Introduction:  Renal transplant (RTx) patients with hepatitis C frequently show normal levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and the significance of ALT in this group has not been established.

Aim:  To determine the value of ALT as a marker of histologic hepatic damage in RTx patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Materials and methods:  HCV-RNA-positive RTx patients with a liver biopsy were analyzed regarding staging and the grading of periportal and lobular necroinflammatory activity. Spearman's correlation coefficient was used to determine the correlation between ALT and histologic variables. Sensitivity, specificity and positive and negative predictive values (PPV and NPV) of ALT in the detection of septal fibrosis and interface hepatitis, and/or confluent necrosis were calculated.

Results:  Fifty-three patients (32 men, 60%), with a mean age of 42 ± 10 yr and time since transplant of 5 ± 4 yr were included. Only 27 (51%) patients showed elevated ALT levels, which were associated with septal fibrosis (p = 0.001), interface hepatitis (p < 0.001) and confluent necrosis (p = 0.05). A correlation was observed between ALT and staging (r = 0.50, p < 0.001), periportal necroinflammatory activity (r = 0.59, p < 0.001) and lobular necroinflammatory activity (r = 0.50, p < 0.001). The sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV of ALT were 92, 61, 41 and 96%, respectively, for the detection of septal fibrosis, and 87, 77, 74 and 88% for the detection of interface hepatitis and/or confluent necrosis.

Conclusion:  ALT is a good marker of histologic hepatic lesion in HCV-infected RTx patients and, therefore, liver biopsy can be avoided in patients with persistently normal ALT.