Abnormal Liver Biochemistry Is Common in Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Prevalence and Associations

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Liver enzymes (LEs) abnormalities associated with pediatric inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are understudied. We undertook to describe the development and associations of abnormal LEs in pediatric IBD.


We ascertained a cohort of 300 children with IBD and collected retrospective data. A Kaplan–Meier analysis determined the time to development of different thresholds of abnormal LEs. Associations between clinical variables and the development of abnormal LEs were determined.


The probability of developing the first episode of abnormal LEs above the upper limit of normal (ULN) within 150 months was 58.1% (16.3% by 1 mo post-IBD diagnosis). There was a 6% prevalence of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) or autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis (ASC) in this cohort. Of those diagnosed with PSC/ASC, 93% had persistent LE elevations at a threshold of >2× ULN, while those without PSC/ASC had a 4% probability of this abnormality. Elevated gamma glutamyltranspeptidase levels of 252 U/L had a 99% sensitivity and 71% specificity for PSC/ASC in IBD. After exclusion of patients with PSC/ASC, corticosteroids, antibiotics, and exclusive enteral nutrition demonstrated strongly positive associations with the first development of abnormal LEs >ULN (hazard ratio 2.1 [95% confidence interval, 1.3–3.3], hazard ratio 5.6 [95% confidence interval, 3.6–8.9], hazard ratio 4.2 [95% confidence interval, 1.6–11.3], respectively).


Abnormal LEs are common in pediatric IBD and occur early. PSC/ASC is associated with persistently high LEs and gamma glutamyltranspeptidase levels >252 U/L. Children with IBD are at risk of elevated LEs if they require medications other than 5-ASA to induce IBD remission.

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