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Keywords:

  • Ascites;
  • acute-on-chronic liver failure;
  • hepatic encephalopathy

Abstract

Background and Objectives: Acute hepatitis A and E are recognized triggers of hepatic decompensation in patients with cirrhosis, particularly from the Indian subcontinent. However, the resulting acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) has not been well characterized and no large studies are available. Our study aimed to evaluate the clinical profile and predictors of 3-month mortality in patients with this distinctive form of liver failure.

Methods: ACLF was diagnosed in patients with acute hepatitis A or E [abrupt rise in serum bilirubin and/or alanine aminotransferase with positive immunoglobulin M anti-hepatitis A virus (HAV)/anti-hepatitis E virus (HEV)] presenting with clinical evidence of liver failure (significant ascites and/or hepatic encephalopathy) and clinical, biochemical, endoscopic (oesophageal varices at least grade II in size), ultrasonographical (presence of nodular irregular liver with porto-systemic collaterals) or histological evidence of cirrhosis. Clinical and laboratory profile were evaluated, predictors of 3-month mortality were determined using univariate and multivariate logistic regression and a prognostic model was constructed. Receiver-operating curves were plotted to measure performance of the present prognostic model, model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score and Child–Turcotte–Pugh (CTP) score.

Results: ACLF occurred in 121 (3.75%) of 3220 patients (mean age 36.3±18.0 years; M:F 85:36) with liver cirrhosis admitted from January 2000 to June 2006. It was due to HEV in 80 (61.1%), HAV in 33 (27.2%) and both in 8 (6.1%). The underlying liver cirrhosis was due to HBV (37), alcohol (17), Wilson's disease (8), HCV (5), autoimmune (6), Budd-Chiari syndrome (2), haemochromatosis (2) and was cryptogenic in the rest (42). Common presentations were jaundice (100%), ascites (78%) and hepatic encephalopathy (55%). Mean (SD) CTP score was 11.4±1.6 and mean MELD score was 28.6±9.06. Three-month mortality was 54 (44.6%). Complications seen were sepsis in 42 (31.8%), renal failure in 45 (34%), spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in 27 (20.5%), UGI bleeding in 15(11%) and hyponatraemia in 50 (41.3%). On univariate analysis, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, renal failure, GI bleeding, total bilirubin, hyponatraemia and coagulopathy were significant predictors of mortality. Multivariate analysis revealed grades 3 and 4 HE [odds ratio (OR 32.1)], hyponatraemia (OR 9.2) and renal failure (OR 16.8) as significant predictors of 3-month mortality and a prognostic model using these predictors was constructed. Areas under the curve for the present predicted prognostic model, MELD, and CTP were 0.952, 0.941 and 0.636 respectively.

Conclusions: ACLF due to hepatitis A or E super infection results in significant short-term mortality. The predictors of ominous outcome include grades 3 and 4 encephalopathy, hyponatraemia and renal failure. Present prognostic model and MELD scoring system were better predictors of 3-month outcome than CTP score in these patients. Early recognition of those with dismal prognosis may permit timely use of liver replacement/supportive therapies.