Background: Originally, aetiology of liver disease has been incorporated into the computation of the Model of End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) score. Clinical observations prompted us to hypothesize that patients with viral and alcoholic cirrhosis may differ in predicted survival rates. Until now, no large representative studies evaluated the impact of aetiology on long-term survival predicted by the Child-Pugh and MELD scores.
Materials and methods: Four hundred and ninety-three patients who underwent transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt implantation in Vienna, Austria, and Palermo, Italy, were included in this retrospective study. The main analyses were a logistic regression model and a Cox proportional hazards regression model calculating the interaction of the aetiology with the scores.
Results: Both groups had similar survival rates (median 1377 and 1721 days for viral and alcoholic cirrhosis, respectively; P = 0.58), but patients with viral cirrhosis had significantly lower MELD scores (P = 0.002). In the Cox analysis, aetiology had a significant impact on the prediction of overall survival by MELD score. For 3-month survival, MELD score was adequately predictive for both groups. For 1-year survival, aetiology had a significant impact on survival, indicating that patients with identical scores but different aetiologies differed in survival rates. When stratifying patients into high- and low-risk patients (MELD < 16 vs. MELD >or= 16), aetiology of cirrhosis had no impact on the predictive value for low-risk patients; high-risk-patients (MELD >or= 16) with viral cirrhosis had significantly lower survival rates than patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and identical scores. With regard to Child-Pugh Score, no significant differences between the two patient groups and in the prediction of 3-month and 1-year survival could be observed.
Conclusions: Our study suggests that aetiology of cirrhosis has an impact on 1-year survival predicted by the MELD score. This becomes more apparent in patients with advanced stage of liver disease (MELD >or= 16). Since MELD score is used for ranking patients for liver transplantation and waiting times are regularly longer than 3 months, our observations suggest that with increasing time on the waiting list and severity of disease, patients with viral cirrhosis may have a disadvantage in the current allocation policy.