Objective: To assess the relationship between neutrophil activation and indices of disease severity in patients with chronic liver disease.
Methods: Plasma neutrophil elastase was measured by radioimmunoassay as a marker of neutrophil activation, and disease severity assessed by standard clinical, biochemical, haematological and histological techniques.
Patients: Eighty-eight patients with chronic liver disease were studied, Thirty-nine had alcohol-induced liver disease (ALD), 18 autoimmune chronic hepatitis, 13 cryptogenic cirrhosis, seven primary biliary cirrhosis, six primary sclerosing cholangitis, three haemochromatosis and two secondary biliary cirrhosis. Seventy-three patients were cirrhotic and 15 were non-cirrhotic, confirmed by biopsy.
Results: Levels of neutrophil elastase were raised in Childs C cirrhotic patients with ALD compared with Childs A or B patients with ALD (P < 0.01), Childs A or B patients with non-ALD (P < 0.01), and Childs C patients with non-ALD (P = 0.02). In patients with ALD, neutrophil elastase correlated with prothrombin time (r = 0.679, P = 0.001), bilirubin (r = 0.587, P < 0.001), Child-Pugh score (r = 0.546, P < 0.001) and inversely with serum albumin (r = -0.511, P < 0.001). In patients with non-ALD, there were no correlations with the measurements of with transaminase levels.
Conclusion: Neutrophil activation, as measured by plasma neutrophil elastase, is a marker of disease severity in patients with alcohol-induced chronic liver damage, but not in those with other causes of liver disease.