Corticosteroids are the only effective therapy for severe alcohol-associated hepatitis (AH), defined as MELD score >20. However, there are patients who may be too sick to benefit from therapy.
To identify the range of MELD score within which steroids are effective treatment for AH.
Retrospective, international multi-center cohort study from 4 continents, including 3,380 adults with clinical and/or histological diagnosis of AH. The main outcome was mortality at 30 days. We used a discrete-time survival analysis model, and MELD cutoffs were established using the transform-the-endpoints method.
Median age was 49 [40-56] years, 76.5% male, and 79% had underlying cirrhosis. Median MELD at admission was 24 [19-29]. Survival was 88% [87-89] at 30 days, 77% [76-78] at 90 days, and 72% [72-74] at 180 days. 1,225 patients (45%) received corticosteroids. In an adjusted-survival-model, corticosteroid use decreased 30-day mortality by 41% (HR=0.59, 0.47-0.74; p<0.001). Steroids improved survival only in patients with MELD scores between 21 (HR=0.61, 0.39-0.95; p=0.027) and 51 (HR=0.72, 0.52-0.99; p=0.041). The maximum effect of corticosteroid treatment (21-30% survival benefit) was observed with MELD scores between 25 (HR=0.58, 0.42-0.77; p<0.001) and 39 (HR=0.57, 0.41-0.79; p51. The type of corticosteroids used (prednisone, prednisolone, or methylprednisolone) was not associated with survival benefit (p=0.247).
Corticosteroids improve 30-day survival only among patients with severe AH, especially with MELD scores between 25 and 39.
Alcohol use in excess is the most common cause of death from chronic liver disease worldwide. Alcohol-associated hepatitis is a condition where the liver is severely inflamed as a result of alcohol use in excess and is associated with high mortality. It is not clear whether the most commonly used agents which are corticosteroids are effective and whether patients with very severe liver disease benefit from treatment. In this worldwide study, the use of corticosteroids was associated with increased 30-day survival, but not at 90 or 180 days. The maximal benefit was observed in patients with a MELD score (a marker of severity of liver disease; higher scores signify worse disease) between 25-39. However, this benefit was lost in patients with the most severe liver disease (MELD score higher than 51).

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