BACKGROUND & AIMS: In the absence of overt infection, the systemic inflammatory response is increasingly recognised as a pathogenetic factor in the circulatory dysfunction of advanced cirrhosis. Our aim was to determine whether the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio, a marker of systemic inflammation, is predictive of mortality in patients with end-stage cirrhosis listed for liver transplantation.
METHODS: A single centre study of 570 patients listed for first elective single-organ liver transplantation January 2007-June 2011.
RESULTS: The median listing neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio was 2.9 (IQR 1.9-4.7). Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio demonstrated a positive correlation with listing serum bilirubin (P < 0.001), negative correlation with serum sodium (P < 0.001), and positive correlation with the MELD score (P < 0.001). Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio increased with increasing severity of ascites (P < 0.001). A higher neutrophil count (P < 0.001) and lower lymphocyte count (P = 0.001) were predictors of wait-list death. In a multivariate competing risk Cox model, neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio remained independently associated with mortality (HR 1.10; 95% CI 1.05-1.15, P < 0.001). The proportion of patients with a neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio <2, 2-4.9, and ≥5 who had died by 3 months of listing was 3%, 13.8% and 37.3% respectively (P < 0.001). After adjusting for MELD, increasing increments of neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio were predictive of death by 3 months (P = 0.043).
CONCLUSIONS: The blood neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio, a simple and readily available marker of systemic inflammation, is an independent predictor of mortality in patients with liver failure listed for liver transplantation.