Presence of autonomic neuropathy is a poor prognostic indicator in patients with advanced liver disease



Autonomic neuropathy (AN) is seen in both alcohol-induced and non-alcohol-induced liver disease, and when present is an independent predictor of mortality. We postulated that patients who were awaiting liver transplantation are likely to have a high prevalence of autonomic neuropathy with an associated increase in mortality. To test our hypothesis, we evaluated the presence of autonomic neuropathy using a battery of tests in 33 patients awaiting liver transplantation and prospectively followed them to determine their prognosis. Twenty-two of 33 (67%) patients with liver disease had evidence of autonomic neuropathy; of these, 12 (36%) had evidence of definite and 10 (31%) had early autonomic neuropathy. The prevalence of AN was similar in alcohol-induced and non-alcohol-induced liver disease. Using Child-Pugh classification, 14.3% Child A, 31.3% Child B, and 60% Child C had definite autonomic neuropathy. Six patients died during a median observation period of 10 months, and all had AN. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed a significantly higher mortality (P=.05) in patients with AN. On the basis of this observation, we suggest that consideration should be given for early liver transplantation in patients with advanced liver disease and autonomic neuropathy.