Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can progress to advanced fibrosis, which, in the nonsurgical population, is associated with poor hepatic and extrahepatic outcomes. Despite its high prevalence, NAFLD and related liver fibrosis may be overlooked during the preoperative evaluation, and the role of liver fibrosis as an independent risk factor for surgical-related mortality has yet to be tested. The aim of this study was to assess whether fibrosis-4 (FIB-4), which consists of age, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and platelets, a validated marker of liver fibrosis, is associated with postoperative mortality in the general surgical population.
A historical cohort of patients undergoing general anesthesia at an academic medical center between 2014 and 2018 was analyzed. Exclusion criteria included known liver disease, acute liver disease or hepatic failure, and alcohol use disorder. FIB-4 score was categorized into 3 validated predefined categories: FIB-4 ≤1.3, ruling out advanced fibrosis; >1.3 and <2.67, inconclusive; and ≥2.67, suggesting advanced fibrosis. The primary analytic method was propensity score matching (FIB-4 was dichotomized to indicate advanced fibrosis), and a secondary analysis included a multivariable logistic regression.
Of 19,861 included subjects, 1995 (10%) had advanced fibrosis per FIB-4 criteria. Mortality occurred intraoperatively in 15 patients (0.1%), during hospitalization in 272 patients (1.4%), and within 30 days of surgery in 417 patients (2.1%). FIB-4 ≥2.67 was associated with increased intraoperative mortality (odds ratio [OR], 3.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25–10.58), mortality during hospitalization (OR, 3.14; 95% CI, 2.37–4.16), and within 30 days from surgery (OR, 2.46; 95% CI, 1.95–3.10), after adjusting for other risk factors. FIB-4 was related to increased mortality in a dose-dependent manner for the 3 FIB-4 categories ≤1.3 (reference), >1.3 and <2.67, and ≥2.67, respectively; during hospitalization (OR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.34–2.65 and OR, 4.70; 95% CI, 3.27–6.76) and within 30 days from surgery (OR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.36–2.31 and OR, 3.55; 95% CI, 2.65–4.77). In a 1:1 propensity-matched sample (N = 1994 per group), the differences in mortality remained. Comparing the FIB-4 ≥2.67 versus the FIB-4 <2.67 groups, respectively, mortality during hospitalization was 5.1% vs 2.2% (OR, 2.70; 95% CI, 1.81–4.02), and 30-day mortality was 6.6% vs 3.4% (OR, 2.26; 95% CI, 1.62–3.14).
A simple liver fibrosis marker is strongly associated with perioperative mortality in a population without apparent liver disease, and may aid in future surgical risk stratification and preoperative optimization.