Monitoring methotrexate-induced hepatic fibrosis in patients with psoriasis: are serial liver biopsies justified?

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Feb 15;19(4):391-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2004.01819.x.


Background: Reports that up to 26% of subjects with psoriasis develop cirrhosis have led to a recommendation of serial liver biopsies after each cumulative dose of 1500 mg of methotrexate.

Aim: To evaluate the progression of liver injury in patients with psoriasis and the impact of monitoring by liver biopsy on their management.

Methods: One hundred and twenty-one liver biopsies from 66 subjects (aged 11-79 years) with psoriasis, receiving a median cumulative dose of 3206 mg of methotrexate over a period of 280.5 weeks, were evaluated.

Results: The assessment of advanced fibrosis according to the Ishak system (>or= 4) correlated perfectly with that of the Scheuer system (>or= 3) and poorly with that of the Roenigk scale (>or= 3b) (r2 = 1.0 and 0.31, respectively). Two of 24 pre-treatment biopsies showed advanced fibrosis and both subjects were heavy drinkers. The cumulative probabilities of advanced fibrosis (Ishak >or= 4) were 0%, 2.6%, 2.6%, 8.2% and 8.2% at cumulative doses of 1500, 3000, 4500, 5000 and 6000 mg, respectively. None of the subjects developed cirrhosis during follow-up or discontinued therapy on the basis of liver biopsy findings.

Conclusions: Advanced hepatic fibrosis with low-dose methotrexate therapy is much less frequent than previously reported. Pre-treatment or monitoring liver biopsies in accordance with the current guidelines have little impact on patient management.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Child
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / chemically induced*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / prevention & control
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psoriasis / drug therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Methotrexate