, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 724-736
Date: 17 Jan 2013

Plasma total bilirubin levels predict amputation events in type 2 diabetes mellitus: the Fenofibrate Intervention and Event Lowering in Diabetes (FIELD) study

Abstract

Aims/hypothesis

Bilirubin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Previous studies demonstrated that higher bilirubin levels were associated with reduced prevalence of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). However, the relationship between bilirubin and lower-limb amputation, a consequence of PAD, is currently unknown. We hypothesised that, in patients with type 2 diabetes, bilirubin concentrations may inversely associate with lower-limb amputation.

Methods

The relationship between baseline plasma total bilirubin levels and amputation events was analysed in 9,795 type 2 diabetic patients from the Fenofibrate Intervention and Event Lowering in Diabetes (FIELD) study. The analysis plan was pre-specified. Lower-limb amputation was adjudicated blinded to treatment allocation. Relevant clinical and biochemical data were available for analyses. Amputation was a pre-specified tertiary endpoint.

Results

Bilirubin concentrations were significantly inversely associated with lower-limb amputation, with a greater than threefold risk gradient across levels. Individuals with lower bilirubin concentrations had a higher risk for first amputation (HR 1.38 per 5 μmol/l decrease in bilirubin concentration, 95% CI 1.07, 1.79, p = 0.013). The same association persisted after adjustment for baseline variables, including age, height, smoking status, γ-glutamyltransferase level, HbA1c, trial treatment allocation (placebo vs fenofibrate), as well as previous PAD, non-PAD cardiovascular disease, amputation or diabetic skin ulcer, neuropathy, nephropathy and diabetic retinopathy (HR 1.38 per 5 μmol/l decrease in bilirubin concentration, 95% CI 1.05, 1.81, p = 0.019).

Conclusions/interpretation

Our results identify a significant inverse relationship between bilirubin levels and total lower-limb amputation, driven by major amputation. Our data raise the hypothesis that bilirubin may protect against amputation in type 2 diabetes.

M. K. C. Ng and A. C. Keech are joint senior authors of this study