Hepatorenal syndrome: a dreaded complication of end-stage liver disease

Andrés Cárdenas
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2005, 100 (2): 460-7
Hepatorenal syndrome is the dreaded complication of end-stage liver disease characterized by functional renal failure due to renal vasoconstriction in the absence of underlying kidney pathology. The pathogenesis of hepatorenal syndrome is the result of an extreme underfilling of the arterial circulation secondary to an arterial vasodilation located in the splanchnic circulation. This underfilling triggers a compensatory response with activation of vasoconstrictor systems leading to intense renal vasoconstriction. The diagnosis is based on established diagnostic criteria aimed at excluding nonfunctional causes of renal failure. The prognosis of patients with hepatorenal syndrome is extremely poor especially in those who have a rapidly progressive course. Liver transplantation is the best option in suitable candidates, but it is not always applicable due to the short survival expectancy and donor shortage. Pharmacological therapies based on the use of vasoconstrictor drugs (terlipressin, midodrine, octreotide, or noradrenline) are the most promising in the aim of successfully offering a bridge to liver transplantation. Other treatments such as transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts and albumin dialysis are effective but experience is very limited. Although there is limited information on the prevention of hepatorenal syndrome, intravenous albumin infusion in patients with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and with oral pentoxifylline in patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis seems to effectively prevent hepatorenal syndrome in these two settings.

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