Background and Aims: The risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) varies, even in the context of cirrhosis. We investigated the relationship between liver stiffness (LS) in subcirrhotic range, assessed via transient elastography (TE), and risk of HCC development in patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB)-related cirrhosis. Methods: Data on 540 patients presenting with clinically evident CHB-related cirrhosis between April 2006 and December 2014 were reviewed retrospectively. Subcirrhotic range of LS was defined by TE values ≤13 kPa. Results: Of the study population, 214 (39.6%) had LS values in the subcirrhotic range. During follow-up (median 54.1 months), 81 patients (15.0%) developed HCC. In conjunction with age, male gender, and diabetes mellitus, subcirrhotic LS value (hazard ratio = 0.462) was an independent predictor of HCC development on multivariate analysis (all p < 0.05). Cumulative HCC incidence was significantly lower for patients in subcirrhotic (versus cirrhotic) LS range (log-rank test, p < 0.05). In our cohort, the modified REACH-B score performed better than other prediction models, namely REACH-B, CU-HCC, and LSM-HCC scoring systems (area under receiver operating characteristic curve: 0.717 versus 0.669, 0.578, and 0.624, respectively, for 7-year HCC risk). Conclusions: A significant association between subcirrhotic range of LS value and lower risk of HCC development was identified in patients with clinically evident CHB-related cirrhosis. Thus, different TE-based HCC surveillance strategies may be required even in patients with identical liver cirrhosis disease category.
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