Objectives: The effect of skeletal muscle fat deposition on the prognosis of patients with chronic liver disease remains unclear. Skeletal muscle fat deposition can be estimated by attenuation of skeletal muscle in Hounsfield units (HU) on computed tomography (CT). The aim of this retrospective cohort study was to investigate the association between skeletal muscle fat deposition assessed by skeletal muscle attenuation (SMA), and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Methods: We enrolled 288 patients with chronic liver disease (139 men, 149 women; mean age 67.5 ± 10.4 y; hepatitis C virus, 239; hepatitis B virus, 17; without viral infection, 32; chronic hepatitis, 227; and cirrhosis, 61) who underwent liver biopsy and CT scanning between January 2013 and February 2017. The patients were divided into two groups based on SMA levels, with the cutoff value of 31 HU. We analyzed the effect of SMA on HCC development. Results: During the study follow-up period (median, 2.50 y; range, 0.5–4.7 y), HCC was identified in 19 patients (7%). The cumulative incidence of HCC in patients with lower SMA (<31 HU) was significantly higher than in patients with SMA ≥31 HU (P = 0.007). Cox proportional hazards regression analysis confirmed cirrhosis (hazard ratio [HR], 6.626; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.57–17.12; P < 0.001) and lower SMA (HR, 3.502; 95% CI, 1.25–9.83; P = 0.017) as significant independent factors associated with HCC development in patients with chronic liver disease. Conclusions: Patients with cirrhosis and skeletal muscle fat deposition assessed by SMA had a higher risk for developing HCC.
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