Features of Severe Liver Disease With Portal Hypertension in Patients With Cystic Fibrosis

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 Aug;14(8):1207-1215.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2016.03.041. Epub 2016 Apr 5.


Background & aims: Liver disease is the third leading cause of death in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), but features of patients with CF, severe liver disease, and portal hypertension have not been characterized fully.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of data from 561 patients with CF (63% male, 99% with pancreatic insufficiency), liver disease (hepatic parenchymal abnormalities consistent with cirrhosis, confirmed by imaging), and portal hypertension (esophageal varices, portosystemic collaterals, or splenomegaly), with no alternate causes of liver disease. All patients were enrolled in the Genetic Modifier Study of Severe CF Liver Disease at 76 international centers, from January 1999 through July 2013.

Results: Male patients were diagnosed with liver disease at a younger age than female patients (10 vs 11 y; P = .01). Splenomegaly was observed in 99% of patients and varices in 71%. Levels of liver enzymes were near normal in most patients. Thrombocytopenia affected 70% of patients and was more severe in patients with varices (88 × 10(9)/L vs 145 × 10(9)/L; P < .0001). Ninety-one patients received liver transplants (16%), at a median age of 13.9 years. Compared with patients who did not receive liver transplants, patients who received liver transplants had lower platelet counts (78 × 10(9)/L vs 113 × 10(9)/L; P < .0001), higher international normalized ratios (P < .0001), and lower levels of albumin (P = .0002). The aminotransferase to platelet ratio index (APRi) and fibrosis index based on 4 factor (FIB-4) values were higher than the diagnostic thresholds for CF liver disease in 96% and in 90% of patients, respectively. Patients who received liver transplants or who had varices had higher APRi and FIB-4 values than patients who did not.

Conclusions: In patients with CF, severe liver disease develops early in childhood (approximately 10 years of age), and is more common in boys than in girls. Patients with varices and those who receive liver transplants have more abnormal platelet counts and APRi and FIB-4 scores.

Keywords: ALT; CFLD; INR; Phenotype; Portal Pressure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal / epidemiology
  • Hypertension, Portal / pathology*
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Liver Diseases / epidemiology
  • Liver Diseases / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult