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Original research
Amelioration of systemic inflammation in advanced chronic liver disease upon beta-blocker therapy translates into improved clinical outcomes

Abstract

Objective Systemic inflammation promotes the development of clinical events in patients with advanced chronic liver disease (ACLD). We assessed whether (1) non-selective beta blocker (NSBB) treatment initiation impacts biomarkers of systemic inflammation and (2) whether these changes in systemic inflammation predict complications and mortality.

Design Biomarkers of systemic inflammation, that is, white blood cell count (WBC), C reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and procalcitonin (PCT) were determined at sequential hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) measurements without NSBB and under stable NSBB intake. The influence of NSBB-related changes in systemic inflammation on the risk of decompensation and liver-related death was analysed using competing risk regression.

Results Our study comprised 307 stable patients with ACLD (Child-A: 77 (25.1%), Child-B: 161 (52.4%), Child-C: 69 (22.5%), median HVPG: 20 (IQR 17–24) mm Hg) including 231 (75.2%) with decompensated disease.

WBC significantly decreased upon NSBB therapy initiation (median: −2 (IQR −19;+13)%, p=0.011) in the overall cohort. NSBB-related reductions of WBC (Child-C: −16 (−30;+3)% vs Child-B: −2 (−16;+16)% vs Child-A: +3 (−7;+13)%, p<0.001) and of CRP (Child-C: −26 (−56,+8)% vs Child-B: −16 (−46;+13)% vs Child-A: ±0 (−33;+33)%, p<0.001) were more pronounced in advanced stages of cirrhosis. The NSBB-associated changes in WBC correlated with changes in CRP (Spearman’s ρ=0.228, p<0.001), PCT (ρ=0.470, p=0.002) and IL-6 (ρ=0.501, p=0.001), but not with changes in HVPG (ρ=0.097, p=0.088).

An NSBB-related decrease in systemic inflammation (ie, WBC reduction ≥15%) was achieved by n=91 (29.6%) patients and was found to be an independent protective factor of further decompensation (subdistribution HR, sHR: 0.694 (0.49–0.98), p=0.038) in decompensated patients and of liver-related mortality in the overall patient cohort (sHR: 0.561 (0.356–0.883), p=0.013).

Conclusion NSBB therapy seems to exert systemic anti-inflammatory activity as evidenced by reductions of WBC and CRP levels. Interestingly, this effect was most pronounced in Child-C and independent of HVPG response. An NSBB-related WBC reduction by ≥15% was associated with a decreased risk of further decompensation and death.

  • portal hypertension
  • cirrhosis
  • inflammation

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