Podcast 528:  Decompensated Liver Failure 

Podcast 528:  Decompensated Liver Failure 

Contributor: Michael Hunt, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Cirrhosis is the end stage of chronic structural damage to the liver. This is most commonly due to  alcohol but other causes viral hepatitis and hepatotoxic drugs
  • Cirrhotic patients are very prone to GI bleeding and infections, partially due to the role the liver plays in producing immune and clotting factors
  • These patients can easily become “sick”. Use the shock index (heart rate / systolic blood pressure) as a rapid assessment of hemodynamic status. >0.7 is worrisome, >1 should prompt resuscitation. 
  • Because cirrhotic patients are immunocompromised, do not rely on the presence of fever and peritonitis to diagnose spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), and have a low threshold to perform a diagnostic paracentesis
  • Polymorphonuclear (PMN) count > 250 in the ascitic fluid suggests SBP
  • With GI bleeding in cirrhotics, antibiotics have a mortality benefit, while PPIs and octreotide have limited benefit

References

Chinnock B, Hendey GW, Minnigan H, Butler J, Afarian H. Clinical impression and ascites appearance do not rule out bacterial peritonitis. J Emerg Med. 2013 May;44(5):903-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2012.07.086. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

Pericleous M, Sarnowski A, Moore A, Fijten R, Zaman M. The clinical management of abdominal ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and hepatorenal syndrome: a review of current guidelines and recommendations. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 Mar;28(3):e10-8. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000000548.

Chavez-Tapia NC, Barrientos-Gutierrez T, Tellez-Avila F, Soares-Weiser K, Mendez-Sanchez N, Gluud C, Uribe M.Meta-analysis: antibiotic prophylaxis for cirrhotic patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding – an updated Cochrane review. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Sep;34(5):509-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04746.x. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

Summarized by Will Dewispelaere, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD

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