Research to improve people's health


We participate in the design of a tool that calculates the risk of suffering from liver diseases

© LiverRisk is an index that, based on eight variables, determines how likely we are to develop cirrhosis or other serious liver diseases. Its application will make it possible to modify the lifestyle of people at risk, diagnose these diseases early and initiate treatments that stop their progression.

liver risk recurs

Photography: Getty Images @peakSTOCK

This new tool is the result of an international study led by Clínic-IDIBAPS, within the European LiverScreen project, which has had an important contribution by researchers from the Research Group on Liver Diseases in Primary Care (GReMHAP) of the IDIAPJGol and the North Metropolitan Primary Care Directorate of the ICS. Its potential to improve the lives of millions of patients is echoed by the prestigious magazine The Lancet, where the study has just been published.

Increasing prevalence

Cirrhosis is one of the main causes of mortality in the world and the second cause of years of life lost in Europe. Although cirrhosis due to hepatitis C has decreased thanks to new treatments, its prevalence is increasing greatly due to fatty liver disease, related to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

"It is a disease that develops slowly and does not produce symptoms, so very often when it is diagnosed it is in a very advanced phase and in which the possibilities of treatment are very limited," explains Pere Ginès, project coordinator. Hence, the need to have simple tools, based on clinical or laboratory variables, that would allow people at risk of liver fibrosis to be identified and prevent it.

How does it work?

LiverRisk index is based on 8 variables: age, gender and six standard variables that can be determined in any laboratory. With this information, it is possible to predict the appearance of liver fibrosis, determine whether the liver situation is normal or abnormal, and foresee the possibility of long-term complications.

“The applicability is similar to that of cardiovascular risk factors that have existed for many years and that predict whether a person is at risk of suffering a myocardial infarction,” says Ginès . This applicability is key in an area in which, until now, there was no possibility of early diagnosis.

Reduce mortality from liver diseases

LiverScreen project is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 program. 43 hospitals and research centers participate. Its objective is to evaluate the potential of liver elastography, a non-invasive technique to determine liver stiffness, in screening for chronic liver diseases in the general population.

To develop the new risk index, the researchers relied on data from 6,400 people with no known liver disease, but some of whom were found to have liver fibrosis after liver elastography. The index was validated in 8,369 people from the general population and its prognostic value was determined in a cohort of 416,000 without disease and with a follow-up of 12 years.