Methotrexate therapy is not associated with increased liver stiffness and significant liver fibrosis in rheumatoid arthritis patients: A cross-sectional controlled study with real-time two-dimensional shear wave elastography

Gian Luca Erre, Maria Luisa Cadoni, Pierluigi Meloni, Floriana Castagna, Arduino Aleksander Mangoni, Matteo Piga, Giuseppe Passiu, Ciriaco Carru, Angelo Zinellu, Gianpaolo Vidili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To explore the significance of the association between treatment with methotrexate (MTX) and liver stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.

Methods: We enrolled 140 consecutive RA patients under MTX treatment (MTX-treated RA; mean treatment duration: 6.2 years; mean MTX cumulative dose: 4.67 g), 33 RA patients naive to MTX (MTX-naive RA) and 100 age and sex-matched healthy blood donors (HD). Liver stiffness was assessed by real time two-dimensional shear wave elastography, with values ≥7.1 Kilopascals (kPa) defining significant liver fibrosis.

Results: kPa values in HD (4.32 ± 0.7) were lower than that in MTX-naive RA (4.92 ± 0.8) and MTX-treated RA (4.85 ± 0.9, p < .0005 for trend). On the contrary, the difference in kPa between MTX-naive and MTX-treated RA was not significant (p = .89). Similarly, liver stiffness was not significantly different across strata of cumulative MTX dose (4.95 ± 0.7 kPa in MTX <1 g, 4.90 ± 1.1 kPa in MTX 1–3 g and 4.80 ± 0.9 in MTX >3 g, p = .610). Significant liver fibrosis was diagnosed in 4 patients in the MTX-treated RA (highest kPa value = 7.6; no liver function test abnormalities or clinical signs of hepatic failure) and in none in both the MTX-naive RA and HD groups (p = .145).

Conclusion: Liver stiffness values, although within the normal range, are significantly higher in RA patients vs. controls, irrespective of MTX treatment. RA patients taking MTX do not have a higher prevalence of significant liver fibrosis when compared to MTX naive RA patients and the general population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
Volume69
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Keywords

  • Liver fibrosis
  • Liver stiffness
  • Methotrexate
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Shear wave elastography

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