Alcohol-related liver disease: treatment controversies

R G Batey
Alcohol and Alcoholism. Supplement 1994, 2: 327-33
The therapy of alcohol-related liver disease remains relatively unsatisfactory despite years of research designed to understand the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver injury and the processes involved in recovery from alcohol-related liver injury. Drugs such as the corticosteroids and colchicine appear to have a place in the management of some patients with alcohol-related liver disease but their use is not widespread in clinical practice. Liver transplantation has become an increasingly used therapy in patients with advanced liver disease but the enthusiasm of the early 1990s is now being replaced by a more cautious approach, particularly to those who have not abstained from alcohol for a significant period prior to transplant assessment. The brightest area in any discussion of treatment approaches to alcoholic liver disease is that of predicting the future. A number of agents designed to modify the inflammatory response and the endotoxaemia associated with significant alcoholic liver injury may be more beneficial than current drugs used for severe alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis. As in all discussions of alcohol-related liver disease and its management, it is important to highlight the need to exclude other forms of liver injury in patients who drink heavily as those diseases respond more to specific therapies than does alcoholic liver disease. The underlying therapy for all patients with alcoholic liver disease is abstinence from alcohol and the importance of encouraging patients to cease their damaging intake of alcohol can not be overemphasised.

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