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Keywords:

  • cirrhosis;
  • liver disease;
  • malnutrition;
  • nutritional support;
  • recommendation

Abstract

Malnutrition has increasingly been acknowledged as an important prognostic factor which can influence the clinical outcome of patients suffering from end-stage liver disease (ESLD). Despite the fact that malnutrition is not included in the Child–Pugh classification, its presence should alert clinicians to the same extent as do other complications, such as ascites and hepatic encephalopathy. The pathophysiological mechanisms and the clinical conditions that drive cirrhotic patients to an ill-balanced metabolic state are multiple and they intertwine. Inadequate offer of nutrients, the hypermetabolic state in cirrhosis, the diminished synthetic capacity of the liver and the impaired absorption of nutrients are the main reasons that disrupt the metabolic balance in ESLD. Identifying patients that are approaching the state of malnutrition by simple and easily applied methods is necessary in order to provide nutritional support to those that need it most. According to the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, simple bedside methods such as Subjective Global Assessment and anthropometric parameters are reliable in assessing the nutritional state of cirrhotic patients. Correcting the nutrient deficit of the affected patients is mandatory. Avoidance of alcohol and excess fat and ingestion of 4–6 meals/day containing carbohydrates and protein are the most common recommendations. In severe malnutrition, initiation of enteral feeding and/or use of special formulae such as branched-chain amino acid-enriched nutrient mixtures are often recommended. Enteral nutrition improves nutritional status and liver function, reduces complications, prolongs survival and is therefore indicated.