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Zinc deficiency has been observed in cirrhosis, but management guidelines do not address screening for zinc deficiency. We aim to determine the prevalence of zinc deficiency in different stages of cirrhosis and to correlate zinc levels with complications of cirrhosis and clinical outcomes. Patients who had a diagnosis of cirrhosis and had serum zinc levels drawn from 2007 to 2011 were identified. Demographics, laboratory data, presence of ascites, encephalopathy, and infection were obtained; Child-Pugh and MELD scores were calculated. Stata software was used for data analysis. A total of 163 patients were included in the study.
The median serum zinc level was 0.47 mcg/ml (IQR 0.37-0.63); 83 % of patients were zinc deficient. Zinc deficiency was more prevalent in patients with Child-Pugh score B or C, and with MELD scores ≥15. Zinc levels were lower in alcoholic, hepatitis C, and cholestatic diseases than in other etiologies of liver disease. Zinc levels correlated with INR (r = -0.56, p < 0.001), bilirubin (r = -0.51, p < 0.001), and albumin (r = 0.68, p < 0.001), and were lower in patients with ascites (0.40 vs. 0.57 mcg/ml, p < 0.001), encephalopathy (0.40 vs. 0.53 mcg/ml, p < 0.001), diuretic use (0.45 vs. 0.535 mcg/ml, p = 0.005), and infection (0.32 vs. 0.51 mcg/ml, p < 0.001). Ascites (p = 0.044) and infection (p = 0.009) were independently associated with zinc levels. Zinc-deficient patients had lower transplant-free survival rates than non-deficient patients.
Zinc deficiency is highly prevalent in cirrhotic patients with Child-Pugh score B or C, and with MELD score ≥15. Zinc deficiency also correlates with disease severity, infection, and a worse transplant-free survival. Screening for zinc deficiency should be considered in this subset of patients.