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Keywords:

  • esophageal varices;
  • hepatic encephalopathy;
  • liver cirrhosis;
  • liver transplantation;
  • MELD;
  • spontaneous bacterial peritonitis

Abstract: Background: The model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) is used to prioritize cirrhotic patients awaiting liver transplantation. Many cirrhosis-related complications are indications for transplantation but are not included in MELD. This study investigated the impact of these complications on survival and association with MELD.

Methods: The mortality risk of cirrhosis-related complications, including bleeding esophageal varices, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, hepatic encephalopathy, hepatorenal syndrome and hepatic decompensation, was analyzed using a time-dependent Cox regression model in 227 cirrhotic patients.

Results: A total of 281 episodes of complications occurred in 142 (63%) patients. Patients who died had a significantly higher baseline MELD score compared with those who survived (14.5±4.5 vs 12.8±3.9, P=0.004). There was no significant difference in the MELD score between patients with and without the occurrence of complications (13.6±4.3 vs 12.9±4.0, P=0.093). Patients with a higher baseline MELD score tended to develop early complications (ρ=−0.598, P< 0.001). Using the Cox regression model, the risk ratio of mortality was 4.9 (95% confidence interval: 3.9–6.3, P< 0.0001) for each additional episode of complication.

Conclusions: The mortality risk increases as the number of complication episodes increases. While patients with repeated complications have a poor outcome, they do not necessarily have a higher baseline MELD score and could be down-staged in the MELD era.