Eradicating chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection led to significant decreases in liver stiffness in a systematic review and meta-analysis of nearly 3,000 patients.
Mean liver stiffness fell by 4.1 kPa (kilopascals) (95% confidence interval, 3.3-4.9 kPa) 12 or more months after patients achieved sustained virologic response to treatment, but did not significantly change in patients who did not achieve SVR, reported, MD, of the University of San Diego, La Jolla, Calif., and his associates in the January issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.04.038). The results were especially striking among patients who received direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) or who had high baseline levels of inflammation, the investigators added.
Eradicating HCV infection was known to decrease liver stiffness, but the magnitude of decline was not well understood. Therefore, the reviewers searched the literature through October 2016 for studies of HCV-infected adults who underwent liver stiffness measurement by vibration-controlled transient elastography before and at least once after completing HCV treatment. All studies also included data on median liver stiffness among patients who did and did not achieve SVR. The search identified 23 observational studies and one post hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial, for a total of 2,934 patients, of whom 2,214 achieved SVR.
Among patients who achieved SVR, mean liver stiffness dropped by 2.4 kPa at the end of treatment (95% CI, 1.7-3.0 kPa), by 3.1 kPa 1-6 months later (95% CI, 1.6-4.7 kPa), and by 3.2 kPa 6-12 months after completing treatment (90% CI, 2.6-3.9 kPa). A year or more after finishing treatment, patients who achieved SVR had a 28% median decrease in liver stiffness (interquartile range, 22%-35%). However, liver stiffness did not significantly change among patients who did not achieve SVR, the reviewers reported.
Mean liver stiffness declined significantly more among patients who received DAAs (4.5 kPa) than among recipients of interferon-based regimens (2.6 kPa; P = .03). However, studies of DAAs included patients with greater liver stiffness at baseline, which could at least partially explain this discrepancy, the investigators said. Baseline cirrhosis also was associated with a greater decline in liver stiffness (mean, 5.1 kPa, vs. 2.8 kPa in patients without cirrhosis; P = .02), as was high baseline alanine aminotransferase level (P less than .01). Among patients whose baseline liver stiffness measurement exceeded 9.5 kPa, 47% had their liver stiffness drop to less than 9.5 kPa after achieving SVR.
Coinfection with HIV did not significantly alter the magnitude of decline in liver stiffness 6-12 months after treatment in patients who achieved SVR, the reviewers noted. “[Follow-up] assessment after SVR was relatively short; hence, long-term evolution of liver stiffness after antiviral therapy and impact of decline in liver stiffness on patient clinical outcomes could not be ascertained,” they wrote. The studies also did not consistently assess potential confounders such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, and alcohol consumption.
One reviewer disclosed funding from the National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine. None had conflicts of interest.