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Chronic liver disease independently linked to increased risk of falls



Chronic liver disease (CLD) is independently associated with an increased risk of falls and fall injuries, results from a large study of nationally representative data showed.

Dr. Elliot B. Tapper and Dr. Maria Camila Perez-Matos Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Elliot B. Tapper and Dr. Maria Camila Perez-Matos

“We have previously known that having cirrhosis, for example, is associated with the risk of falling, but we didn’t have any data from a nationally representative sample,” lead study author Maria Camila Pérez-Matos, MD, said in an interview at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. “What surprised us is that just by having chronic liver disease – any subtype – you’re more likely to fall, and also to have a fracture after you have fallen.”

In an effort to define the association between CLD and fall history and its related injuries, Dr. Pérez-Matos of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, and her associates examined data from 5,363 subjects aged 60 years and older in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which represents the noninstitutionalized civilian population in the United States. Their outcomes of interest were one or more falls occurring in the previous 12 months and fall-related injuries. The main exposure was definitive CLD, defined by chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis C RNA or hepatitis B surface antigen), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH; hepatosteatosis by ultrasound with abnormal transaminases), and alcohol-related liver disease (females consuming more than 7 drinks/week and males consuming 14 drinks/week among, plus having abnormal transaminases). Suspected CLD was defined as having abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels (males greater than 30 IU/L, females greater than 19 IU/L), aspartate aminotransferase levels above 33 IU/L, or alkaline phosphatase levels above 100 IU/L. The researchers used univariate and multivariate logistic regression to examine associations.

The average age of subjects was 70 years, and 59% were female. Of the 5,363 subjects, 340 had definitive CLD. Of these, 234 (69%) had NASH, 85 (25%) had viral hepatitis, and 21 (6%) had alcoholic liver disease. Subjects with definitive CLD were more likely to be female and have diabetes mellitus, a higher body mass index, and physical/functional impairment. Dr. Pérez-Matos and her colleagues found that definitive CLD was associated with a 52% increase in the odds of having a history of falls (odds ratio, 1.52; P = .01). The association remained significant after controlling for age, sex, smoking, race, physical or functional impairment, impaired vision, polypharmacy, and body mass index. The degree of excess falling risk posed by CLD was similar to that of having impaired vision (OR, 1.48; P less than .001).

Of the CLD subtypes, subjects with viral hepatitis had the strongest association with a history of falls (OR, 2.2; P = .001). In addition, definitive CLD was found to have significant association with any physical impairment, even after adjusting for relevant covariates (OR, 1.63; P = .001).

Finally, multivariate logistic regression revealed that both suspected and definitive CLD were associated with injurious falls (OR, 1.40 and OR of 1.67, respectively). “Everyone is interested in preventing falls because of its public health impact, and predictors of falls are relatively limited,” said Elliott B. Tapper, MD, the study’s principal investigator, who is with the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Because chronic liver disease is increasingly common, our data is speaking to a hitherto unknown risk factor: one which if you apply it to other data sets might help figure out why more people are falling. The lesson is, there’s something about chronic liver disease; it’s a sign. If it’s fatty liver disease, it’s a sign that diabetes has taken its toll on the body – its nerves and muscles. There’s something about what’s going on in that person that’s worse than it is for other people. We don’t know cause or effect, but the association is strong and deserves further study, particularly when it comes to determining [which patients] in our clinics are at higher risk and making sure they’re doing physical therapy to prevent falls in the future.”

Dr. Tapper disclosed that she has a career development award from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Pérez-Matos reported having no monetary conflicts.

Source: Hepatol. 2018;68[S1], Abstract 756.

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