Background: Vitamin D is required to maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier and inhibits inflammatory signaling pathways.
Objective: Vitamin D deficiency might be involved in cirrhosis-associated systemic inflammation and risk of hepatic decompensation in patients with liver cirrhosis.
Methods: Outpatients of the Hepatology Unit of the University Hospital Frankfurt with advanced liver fibrosis and cirrhosis were prospectively enrolled. 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D3) serum concentrations were quantified and associated with markers of systemic inflammation / intestinal bacterial translocation and hepatic decompensation.
Results: A total of 338 patients with advanced liver fibrosis or cirrhosis were included. Of those, 51 patients (15%) were hospitalized due to hepatic decompensation during follow-up. Overall, 72 patients (21%) had severe vitamin D deficiency. However, patients receiving vitamin D supplements had significantly higher 25(OH)D3 serum levels compared to patients without supplements (37 ng/mL vs. 16 ng/ml, P<0.0001). Uni- and multivariate analyses revealed an independent association of severe vitamin D deficiency with the risk of hepatic decompensation during follow-up (multivariate P = 0.012; OR = 3.25, 95% CI = 1.30-8.2), together with MELD score, low hemoglobin concentration, low coffee consumption, and presence of diabetes. Of note, serum levels of C-reactive protein, IL-6 and soluble CD14 were significantly higher in patients with versus without severe vitamin D deficiency, and serum levels of soluble CD14 levels declined in patients with de novo supplementation of vitamin D (median 2.15 vs. 1.87 ng/mL, P = 0.002).
Conclusions: In this prospective cohort study, baseline vitamin D levels were inversely associated with liver-cirrhosis related systemic inflammation and the risk of hepatic decompensation.