The vast majority of patients with cirrhosis have low Model for End-Stage Liver Disease–Sodium (MELD-Na) scores; however, the ability for the MELD-Na score to predict patient outcomes at low scores is unclear.
Adult patients in a multicenter, Chicago-wide database of medical records with International Classification of Disease, Ninth Edition codes of cirrhosis and without a history of hepatocellular carcinoma were included. Records were linked with the state death registry, and death certificates were manually reviewed. Deaths were classified as “liver-related,” “non-liver-related,” and “non-descript” as adjudicated by a panel comprised of a transplant surgeon, a hepatologist, and an internist. A sensitivity analysis was performed where patients with hepatocellular carcinoma were included.
Among 7922 identified patients, 3999 patients had MELD-Na scores that were never higher than 15. In total, 2137 (27%) patients died during the study period with higher mortality rates for the patients in the high MELD-Na group (19.4 (41.6%) versus 4.1 (12.6%) per 100 person-y, P < 0.001). The high MELD-Na group died of a liver-related cause in 1142 out of 1632 (70%) as compared to 240 out of 505 (47.5%) deaths in the low MELD-Na group. There was no difference in the distribution of subcategory of liver-related death between low and high MELD-Na groups. Among subclassification of liver-related deaths, the most common cause of death was “Infectious” in both groups.
Despite persistently low MELD-Na scores, patients with cirrhosis still experience high rates of liver-related mortality.