Adrenal insufficiency in patients with cirrhosis and septic shock: Effect of treatment with hydrocortisone on survival

Javier Fernández, Angels Escorsell, Michel Zabalza, Vanessa Felipe, Miguel Navasa, Antoni Mas, Antonio M Lacy, Pere Ginès, Vicente Arroyo
Hepatology: Official Journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 2006, 44 (5): 1288-95
Relative adrenal insufficiency is frequent in patients with severe sepsis and is associated with hemodynamic instability, renal failure, and increased mortality. This study prospectively evaluated the effects of steroids on shock resolution and hospital survival in a series of 25 consecutive patients with cirrhosis and septic shock (group 1). Adrenal function was evaluated by the short corticotropin test within the first 24 hours of admission. Patients with adrenal insufficiency were treated with stress doses of intravenous hydrocortisone (50 mg/6 h). Data were compared to those obtained from the last 50 consecutive patients with cirrhosis and septic shock admitted to the same intensive care unit in whom adrenal function was not investigated and who did not receive treatment with steroids (group 2). Incidence of adrenal insufficiency in group 1 was 68% (17 patients). Adrenal dysfunction was frequent in patients with advanced cirrhosis (Child C: 76% vs. Child B: 25%, P = .08). Resolution of septic shock (96% vs. 58%, P = .001), survival in the intensive care unit (68% vs. 38%, P = .03), and hospital survival (64% vs. 32%, P = .003) were significantly higher in group 1. The main causes of death in group 1 were hepatorenal syndrome or liver failure (7 of 9 patients). In contrast, refractory shock caused most of the deaths in group 2 (20 of 34 patients). In conclusion, relative adrenal insufficiency is very frequent in patients with advanced cirrhosis and septic shock. Hydrocortisone administration in these patients is associated with a high frequency of shock resolution and high survival rate.

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