Elevated Liver Enzymes and Mortality in Older Individuals: A Prospective Cohort Study

Suzanne E. Mahady, Germaine Wong, Robin M. Turner, Paul Mitchell, Petra Macaskill, Jonathan C. Craig, Jacob George

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Aim of the study: The aim of the study was to determine the excess risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in older people with elevated liver enzymes [alanine transaminase (ALT) and gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT)]. Methods: We utilized data from a large, prospective, population based study of 2061 people aged 50 to 99 years with linkage to a National Death Registry. Participants were categorized as having elevated liver enzymes using standard thresholds (for males, GGT>51 and ALT>40 IU/L, and GGT>33 and ALT>31 IU/L for females). Adjusted Cox proportional hazards models assessed the association of elevated liver enzymes and mortality with long duration follow-up. Results: Over a median follow-up of 10 years (20,145 person years), 701 people died, including 203 (34%) from cardiovascular disease. Cox regression models adjusted for sex, age, smoking, and alcohol intake indicated that people with elevated liver enzymes had an increased risk of all-cause mortality that was modified by age (test for interaction P=0.01). Age-stratified analyses demonstrated no increased risk at younger ages [age 59 y and below; hazard ratio (HR): 0.46; 95% confidence interval, 0.06-3.49], but increased risk with age; age 60 to 69, HR: 1.05 (0.53-2.07), age 70 to 79 years, HR: 1.54 (0.81 to 2.93), and age 80 years and above, HR: 3.53 (1.55 to 8.04). Similarly, the risk of cardiovascular mortality with elevated liver enzymes was also modified by, and increased with age (test for interaction P=0.02); age 70 to 79, HR: 3.15 (1.37 to 7.23), age 80 years and above, HR: 6.86 (2.44 to 19.30). Conclusions: In community-dwelling elderly persons, an elevation in both ALT and GGT are associated with an excess risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality which increases with age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-445
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Gastroenterology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cohort
  • liver enzymes
  • population
  • survival

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