Therapy insight: Management of hepatorenal syndrome

Andrés Cárdenas, Pere Ginès
Nature Clinical Practice. Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2006, 3 (6): 338-48
Hepatorenal syndrome (HRS), a feared complication of advanced cirrhosis, is characterized by functional renal failure, secondary to renal vasoconstriction in the absence of underlying kidney pathology. Extreme underfilling of the arterial circulation, caused by arterial vasodilation of the splanchnic circulation, activates vasoconstrictor systems, which lead to intense renal vasoconstriction and HRS. Factors predictive for the development of HRS include intense urinary sodium retention, dilutional hyponatremia, low blood pressure, decreased cardiac output, and increased activity of systemic vasoconstrictors. The prognosis for patients with HRS is extremely poor, especially for those with the acute, progressive (type 1) form. Liver transplantation is the best treatment for suitable candidates and should always be the management option considered first. Pharmacologic therapies are aimed at improving renal function to enable patients to survive until transplantation is possible. These therapies are based on plasma expansion with albumin, combined with the use of either vasopressin analogs or alpha-adrenergic agonists. Other nonpharmacologic therapies, such as transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts and albumin dialysis show promise, but experience with these treatments is limited. For prevention of HRS, albumin infusion is recommended in patients with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, and pentoxifylline treatment is recommended in patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis.

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