Background: The relationship between non-cholestatic liver disease and total bile acid (TBA) remains obscure. The present study aimed to verify this relationship in patients with non-cholestatic chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
Methods: A total of 922 consecutive chronic HBV infected patients with alkaline phosphatase (ALP) ≤ 1.5 upper limit of normal (ULN) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) ≤ 3 ULN were rigorously included in this cross-sectional study. Liver biopsy was performed in 53 patients and Scheuer scoring system was used to evaluate inflammation grade. G3/G4 or Child-Pugh B/C were considered to be significant liver injury.
Results: Compared to Child-Pugh A, TBA, total bilirubin (TBIL), ALP, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and AST to ALT ratio (AST/ALT) were significantly higher in Child-Pugh B/C, while TBIL to TBA ratio (TBIL/TBA) was significantly lower (all p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, TBA and AST/ALT were independently correlated with Child-Pugh B/C [odds ratio (OR) = 1.04, p < 0.001; OR = 1.79, p < 0.001, respectively]. The area under the curve (AUC) of TBA (0.82) was significantly higher than that of AST (0.73, p < 0.001) and ALT (0.63, p < 0.001). Furthermore, in patients with liver biopsy, TBA was also significantly higher in G3/G4 while TBIL/TBA was significantly lower (p < 0.05). After adjusting the factors related to bile excretion, TBIL/TBA was independently associated with G3/G4 (OR = 0.89, p = 0.037).
Conclusions: Serum TBA shows a close relationship with significant liver injury in chronic HBV infected patients without cholestasis. Assessment of TBA, especially in combination with TBIL/TBA, may serve as a non-invasive marker for the diagnosis of non-cholestatic hepatic damage.