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Review article: Evaluation and care of the critically ill patient with cirrhosis.

BACKGROUND: The increase in prevalence of liver disease globally will lead to a substantial incremental burden on intensive care requirements. While liver transplantation offers a potential life-saving intervention, not all patients are eligible due to limitations such as organ availability, resource constraints, ongoing sepsis or multiple organ failures. Consequently, the focus of critical care of patients with advanced and decompensated cirrhosis turns to liver-centric intensive care protocols, to mitigate the high mortality in such patients.

AIM: Provide an updated and comprehensive understanding of cirrhosis management in critical care, and which includes emergency care, secondary organ failure management (mechanical ventilation, renal replacement therapy, haemodynamic support and intensive care nutrition), use of innovative liver support systems, infection control, liver transplantation and palliative and end-of life care.

METHODS: We conducted a structured bibliographic search on PubMed, sourcing articles published up to 31 March 2024, to cover topics addressed. We considered data from observational studies, recommendations of society guidelines, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses, randomised controlled trials, and incorporated our clinical expertise in liver critical care.

RESULTS: Critical care management of the patient with cirrhosis has evolved over time while mortality remains high despite aggressive management with liver transplantation serving as a crucial but not universally available resource.

CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of organ support therapies, intensive care protocols, nutrition, palliative care and end-of-life discussions and decisions are an integral part of critical care of the patient with cirrhosis. A multi-disciplinary approach towards critical care management is likely to yield better outcomes.

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