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Keywords:

  • Alcoholic Liver Disease;
  • Liver Stiffness;
  • Alcohol Withdrawal

Background:

Measurement of liver stiffness (LS) using real-time elastography appears as a promising tool to evaluate the severity of chronic liver diseases. Previous studies in patients with alcoholic liver disease have suggested that fibrosis was the only histological parameter to influence LS. To challenge this hypothesis, we have prospectively tested the short-term impact of alcohol withdrawal on LS value.

Methods:

Patients hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal in our Liver and Addiction Unit between 2007 and 2010 had an LS determination at entry (D0) and 7 days after alcohol withdrawal (D7). LS value was given as the median of 10 measurements performed with a FibroScan® device. For a given patient, variation of LS was considered as significant when the comparison of the 10 measurements at D0 and at D7 yielded a p-value under 0.05 (Wilcoxon test).

Results:

One hundred and thirty-seven patients were included in the study (median alcohol consumption: 150 g/d; hepatitis C: n = 21 [15.6%]). Considering all patients, median LS value decreased from 7.2 to 6.1 kPa between D0 and D7 (p = 0.00001, paired Wilcoxon test). LS decreased significantly in 62 patients (45.3%), and there was a reduction in the estimated stage of fibrosis in 32 (23.3%). LS increased significantly in 16 patients (11.7%). Subgroup analyses revealed that the decrease in LS was still significant in patients with or without hepatitis C infection, and aspartate transaminase level below or above 100 UI/l.

Conclusions:

LS decreases significantly in nearly half of heavy drinkers after only 7 days of abstinence. This result strongly suggests that nonfibrotic lesions (such as the presence of alcoholic hepatitis) may influence LS. From a practical point of view, it also shows that variation of alcohol consumption must be taken into account for the interpretation of LS value.