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AASLD 2020: A clinical news roundup



Studies that address fundamental questions in hepatology and have the potential to change or improve clinical practice were the focus of a clinical debrief session from the virtual annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

“We chose papers that had the highest level of evidence, such as randomized controlled trials, controlled studies, and large data sets – and some small data sets too,” said Tamar Taddei, MD, associate professor of medicine in the section of digestive disease at Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Dr. Taddei and colleagues Silvia Vilarinho, MD, PhD; Simona Jakab, MD; and Ariel Jaffe, MD, all also from Yale, selected the papers from among 197 oral and 1,769 poster abstracts presented at AASLD 2020.

They highlighted the most important findings from presentations on autoimmune and cholestatic disease, transplantation, cirrhosis and portal hypertension, alcoholic liver disease, neoplasia, drug-induced liver injury, and COVID-19. They did not review studies focused primarily on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, viral hepatitis, or basic science, all of which were covered in separate debriefing sessions.

Cirrhosis and portal hypertension

A study from the Department of Veterans Affairs looked at the prevalence of liver disease risk factors and rates of subsequent testing for and diagnosis of cirrhosis in the Veterans Health Administration system (VHA).

The authors found that, among more than 6.65 million VHA users in 2018 with no prior diagnosis of cirrhosis, approximately half were at risk for cirrhosis, of whom about 75% were screened, and approximately 5% of those who were screened were positive for possible cirrhosis (133,636). Of the patients who screened positive, about 10% (12,566) received a diagnosis of cirrhosis, including 4,120 with liver decompensation.

“This paper underscores the importance of population-level screening in uncovering unrecognized cirrhosis, enabling intervention earlier in the course of disease,” Dr. Taddei said (Abstract #661).

A study looking at external validation of novel cirrhosis surgical risk models designed to improve prognostication for a range of common surgeries showed that the VOCAL-Penn score was superior to the Mayo Risk Score, Model for End-stage Liver Disease and MELD-sodium scores for discrimination of 30-day and 90-day postoperative mortality (Abstract #91).

“While these models are not a substitute for clinical acumen, they certainly improve our surgical risk prediction in patients with cirrhosis, a very common question in consultative hepatology,” Dr. Taddei said.

She also cited three abstracts that address the important questions regarding performing studies in patients with varices or ascites, including whether it’s safe to perform transesophageal echocardiography in patients with cirrhosis without first screening for varices, and whether nonselective beta-blockers should be continued in patients with refractory ascites.

A retrospective study of 191 patients with cirrhosis who underwent upper endoscopy within 4 years of transesophageal echocardiography had no overt gastrointestinal bleeding regardless of the presence of esophageal varices, suggesting that routine preprocedure esophagogastroduodenoscopy “is of no utility,” (Abstract #1872).

A study to determine risk of sepsis in 1,198 patients with cirrhosis found that 1-year risk of sepsis was reduced by 50% with the use of nonselective beta-blockers (Abstract #94).

The final abstract in this category touched on the use of an advance care planning video support tool to help transplant-ineligible patients with end-stage liver disease decide whether they want support measures such cardiopulmonary resuscitation or intubation. The authors found that the video decision tool was feasible and acceptable to patients, and improved their knowledge of end-of-life care. More patients randomized to the video arm opted against CPR or intubation, compared with those assigned to a verbal discussion of options (Abstract #712).


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