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Summary

Background

The histological pattern of fibrosis in liver cirrhosis varies in different chronic liver diseases, and hepatic decompensation may be differentiated in consequences of fibrosis (i.e. ascites, variceal bleeding) or in lack of function (i.e. jaundice) resulting in aetiology-specific variable morbidity and mortality.

Aim

To evaluate patterns of hepatic decompensation in relation to the aetiology of liver cirrhosis.

Methods

Two different cohorts were retrospectively evaluated between 2002 and 2007. Cohort A was for hypothesis generation and consisted of 220 cirrhotic patients. To confirm the initial observations a second cohort B (n = 217) was analysed. The different patterns of hepatic decompensation evaluated were ascites, jaundice, encephalopathy, variceal bleeding, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, hepatorenal syndrome or hepatocellular carcinoma.

Furthermore, we analysed survival in relation to pattern of decompensation in alcoholic vs. non-alcoholic liver disease.

Results

Alcoholics were more frequently hospitalised for ascites (cohort A: 81.4% vs. 65.4%, P = 0.016; cohort B 71.3% vs. 58.5%, P = 0.085). In contrast, non-alcoholics presented with higher rates of hepatocellular carcinoma (cohort A: 23.1% vs. 11.9%, P = 0.046; cohort B 38.6% vs. 22.5%, P = 0.018). There were no significant differences in jaundice, variceal bleeding, hepatorenal syndrome or encephalopathy.

Survival was significantly impaired in non-alcoholic cirrhosis once ascites occurred (P = 0.003), whereas ascites did not predict higher mortality in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.

Conclusions

Ascites is the leading initial pattern of decompensation in alcoholic cirrhosis whereas hepatocellular carcinoma dominates in non-alcoholics. Non-alcoholics developing ascites show a poor survival.