Review article: pathogenesis and pathophysiology of hepatorenal syndrome—is there scope for prevention?

S Møller, J H Henriksen
Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2004, 20 Suppl 3: 31-41; discussion 42-3
The hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) is a functional impairment of the kidneys in chronic liver disease caused by a circulatory failure. The prognosis is poor, particularly with type 1 HRS, but also type 2, and only liver transplantation is of lasting benefit. However, recent research into the pathophysiology of ascites and HRS has stimulated new enthusiasm in their prevention and treatment. Patients with HRS have hyperdynamic circulatory dysfunction with reduced arterial blood pressure and reduced central blood volume, owing to preferential splanchnic arterial vasodilatation. Activation of potent vasoconstricting systems, including the sympathetic nervous and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone systems, counteracts the arterial vasodilatation and leads to a pronounced renal vasoconstriction with renal hypoperfusion, a reduced glomerular filtration rate, and intense sodium-water retention. Thus prevention of HRS should seek to improve liver function, limit arterial hypotension and central hypovolaemia, and reduce renal vasoconstriction and the renal and interstitial pressures. Portal pressure can be reduced with beta-adrenergic blockers and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS). Precipitating events, like infections, bleeding, and postparacentesis circulatory syndrome, should be treated to avoid further circulatory failure. Improvement in arterial blood pressure and central hypovolaemia can be achieved with vasoconstrictors, such as terlipressin (Glypressin), and plasma expanders such as human albumin. In the future endothelins, adenosine antagonists, long-acting vasoconstrictors, and antileukotriene drugs may play a role in preventing and treating HRS.

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