Background: Serum albumin level improves in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection who achieve sustained virologic response (SVR) with antiviral therapy. However, it remains controversial whether liver volume increases along with SVR.
Methods: Patients with chronic HCV infection with a history of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who achieved SVR with anti-HCV treatment from March 2003 to November 2017 were enrolled. Patients were followed up with periodic computed tomography (CT) scans to detect HCC recurrence. Patients who underwent treatment for HCC recurrence within 1 year after initiation of anti-HCV treatment were excluded. Laboratory data, including alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level, serum albumin level, and platelet count, were collected at baseline and timepoints after treatment initiation. Liver volume was evaluated at baseline and 24 and 48 weeks after treatment initiation using a CT volume analyzer. A linear mixed-effects model was applied to analyze the chronologic change in liver volume. The correlations between changes in ALT level, albumin level, and liver volume were also evaluated.
Results: Of 108 enrolled patients, 78 had cirrhosis. Serum albumin level continued to increase through 48 weeks after treatment initiation. A significant increase in liver volume was observed only in patients without cirrhosis (P = 0.005). There was a significant correlation between ALT level decrease and albumin level increase (P = 0.018).
Conclusions: Improved liver albumin production with SVR was contributed by improved liver cell function rather than increased liver volume in patients with cirrhosis.