OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to test the hypothesis that anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL) may cause an antiphospholipid syndrome and thrombotic events in patients with liver disease. METHODS: aCL were measured in 116 healthy controls and 372 patients with liver disease of different stage and etiology: 136 cases secondary to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, 139 due to hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, 69 with alcoholic liver damage, and 28 cryptogenic in origin. Prior thrombotic events were recorded. The results were related to age, gender, stage, severity, and etiology of the liver disease, as well as to the occurrence of organ- and nonorgan-specific autoantibodies. RESULTS: aCL were positive in 4.4% of controls and in 18.8% of patients (p <0.0002). Patients with aCL were more frequently men with an advanced cirrhosis and simultaneous occurrence of anti-smooth-muscle antibodies (ASMA) in serum (p <0.0006); their liver damage was often secondary to HBV (37.3%) or alcohol abuse (18.5%). At conditional logistic regression analysis, only the presence of ASMA (odds ratio [OR] = 3.02, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.7-5.5, p = 0.0003), HBV (OR = 3.4, 95% CI 1.6-7.2, p = 0.0013), or alcoholic liver disease (OR = 5.3, 95% CI 2.3-12.2, p = 0.0001) were independently associated with aCL. Thrombosis was encountered in 24 patients (6.4%). At conditional logistic regression analysis, thrombosis was significantly associated with advanced age (OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.0-1.1, p = 0.0094), development of hepatocellular carcinoma (OR = 17.8, 95% CI 1.6- 196.0, p = 0.01), HBV etiology (OR = 6.3, 95% CI, 1.6-24.6, p = 0.0076), or cryptogenic liver disease (OR = 54.8, 95% CI 5-599.9, p = 0.001). Of the five patients with newly documented portal thrombosis during the follow-up, only one tested positive for aCL. CONCLUSIONS: In patients with nonautoimmune liver disease, aCL production is an epiphenomenon of the liver damage and is not associated with thrombotic complications. These data do not support the hypothesis that HCV is a cause of the antiphospholipid syndrome.
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