- 1Internal Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center.
- 2Center for Medical Informatics and Enterprise Analytics, University of Kansas Medical Center.
- 3Department of Biostatistics & Data Science, University of Kansas Medical Center.
Background and aim: The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommends a high index of suspicion for Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and advanced fibrosis in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and an elevated fibrosis-4 index (FIB-4). We investigated the referral pattern of patients with T2D and FIB4 >3.25 to the hepatology clinic and evaluated the clinical benefits to the patient.
Methods: We included patients aged 18-80 years with T2D and a FIB4 score >3.25 who had visited the internal medicine, family medicine, endocrinology clinic from 01/01/2014-5/31/2019. The first time point of high-risk FIB-4 was identified as the baseline for time-to-event analysis. The patients were classified based on whether they had visited the hepatology clinic (referred vs. not referred).
Results: Of the 2174 patients, 290 (13.3%) were referred to the hepatology clinic, and 1884 (86.7%) were not referred. In multivariate analyses, the referred patients had a lower overall mortality risk (Hazard Ratio: 0.57; 95%CI: 0.38-87). Notably, the referred patients had the same rate of biochemical decompensation, as measured by progression to MELD ≥14, but a substantially higher rate of diagnosis in cirrhosis (27, 19-38) and cirrhosis complications, including ascites (2.9, 2.0-4.1), hepatic encephalopathy (99, 13-742), and liver cancer (14, 5-38).
Conclusions: We found that patients with T2D and high-risk FIB4 are associated with better overall survival after referral to a hepatology clinic. We speculate that the survival difference is due to the increased recognition of cirrhosis and cirrhosis complications in the referred populations.