Liver abnormalities in patients with psoriatic arthritis are common and are associated with higher body mass index, more severe disease, and certain therapies, new research suggests.

Illustration of human liver Wavebreakmedia Ltd/ThinkStockPhotos.com

Patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) often have comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, malignancy, and ophthalmic disease, and liver disease is no exception, wrote Rattapol Pakchotanon, MD, of the department of internal medicine at Phramongkutlao Hospital and College of Medicine, Bangkok, and associates. Their report is in the Journal of Rheumatology.

In psoriasis patients, the prevalence of liver abnormalities has been 24%-36% in previous research, but research regarding liver disease in PsA has been limited.

Of 1,061 patients from the University of Toronto Psoriatic Arthritis Clinic who were included in the study, 343 (32%) had liver abnormalities, including 256 who developed a liver abnormality or disease after their first evaluation at the clinic. Liver abnormality was defined as having aspartate transaminase, alanine transaminase, or alkaline phosphatase levels 1.5 times the upper limit of normal or greater, and liver diseases included drug-induced liver injury, fatty liver, viral hepatitis, autoimmune liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, liver fibrosis, and cirrhosis.

Among the patients with PsA who developed liver abnormalities or disease after their first visit, liver abnormalities occurred after an average of 8.3 years of follow-up and at a mean age of 50.5 years. The average BMI in this group was 29.7 kg/m2, and 11% of patients consumed alcohol daily. A total of 105 patients had recurrent liver abnormalities, and the rest had only one visit with an abnormality; those with transient abnormalities were significantly less likely to have evidence of liver disease (P less than .001).

The most common cause of liver disease was drug-induced hepatitis (14%) and fatty liver (13%). Alcohol-induced hepatitis occurred in 10 patients, and cirrhosis was reported in 2 patients.

In a multivariable analysis, factors found to be independently associated with liver abnormalities in PsA included BMI (odds ratio, 1.07; 95% confidence interval, 1.02-1.12; P = .007), daily alcohol intake (OR, 4.46; 95% CI, 1.30-15.28; P = .02), damaged joint count (OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01-1.08; P = .01), elevated C-reactive protein (OR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.04-3.85; P = .04), use of methotrexate or leflunomide (OR, 4.39; 95% CI, 1.67-11.54; P = .003), and use of tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (OR, 10.56; 95% CI, 3.63-30.69; P less than .0001).

“We recommend monitoring liver function tests in these high risk PsA patients,” the researchers concluded. “This is important in the management of patients with PsA as many of the therapeutic options may aggravate or even lead to liver abnormalities in this patient population.”

The study was funded in part by the Arthritis Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Krembil Foundation. The investigators reported that they had no conflicts of interest. Dr. Pakchotanon conducted the research while he was at the Centre for Prognosis Studies in the Rheumatic Diseases at Toronto Western Hospital.

SOURCE: Gladman DD et al. J Rheumatol. 2019 Oct 15. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.181312