Incidence, predictors and outcomes of acute-on-chronic liver failure in outpatients with cirrhosis

Salvatore Piano, Marta Tonon, Elia Vettore, Marialuisa Stanco, Chiara Pilutti, Antonietta Romano, Sara Mareso, Carmine Gambino, Alessandra Brocca, Antonietta Sticca, Silvano Fasolato, Paolo Angeli
Journal of Hepatology 2017, 67 (6): 1177-1184

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is the most life-threatening complication of cirrhosis. Prevalence and outcomes of ACLF have recently been described in hospitalized patients with cirrhosis. However, no data is currently available on the prevalence and the risk factors of ACLF in outpatients with cirrhosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate incidence, predictors and outcomes of ACLF in a large cohort of outpatients with cirrhosis.

METHODS: A total of 466 patients with cirrhosis consecutively evaluated in the outpatient clinic of a tertiary hospital were included and followed up until death and/or liver transplantation for a mean of 45±44months. Data on development of hepatic and extrahepatic organ failures were collected during this period. ACLF was defined and graded according to the EASL-CLIF Consortium definition.

RESULTS: During the follow-up, 118 patients (25%) developed ACLF: 57 grade-1, 33 grade-2 and 28 grade-3. The probability of developing ACLF was 14%, 29%, and 41% at 1year, 5years, and 10years, respectively. In the multivariate analysis, baseline mean arterial pressure (hazard ratio [HR] 0.96; p=0.012), ascites (HR 2.53; p=0.019), model of end-stage liver disease score (HR 1.26; p<0.001) and baseline hemoglobin (HR 0.07; p=0.012) were found to be independent predictors of the development of ACLF at one year. As expected, ACLF was associated with a poor prognosis, with a 3-month probability of transplant-free survival of 56%.

CONCLUSIONS: Outpatients with cirrhosis have a high risk of developing ACLF. The degree of liver failure and circulatory dysfunction are associated with the development of ACLF, as well as low values of hemoglobin. These simple variables may help to identify patients at a high risk of developing ACLF and to plan a program of close surveillance and prevention in these patients.

LAY SUMMARY: There is a need to identify predictors of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) in patients with cirrhosis in order to identify patients at high risk of developing ACLF and to plan strategies of prevention. In this study, we identified four simple predictors of ACLF: model of end-stage liver disease (MELD) score, ascites, mean arterial pressure and hemoglobin. These variables may help to identify patients with cirrhosis, at a high risk of developing ACLF, that are candidates for new strategies of surveillance and prevention. Anemia is a potential new target for treating these patients.

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