New advances in the management of patients with cirrhosis

April 25, 2013

New data from clinical studies presented for the first time at the International Liver Congress 2013 provide new rationale for an old and established treatment option for portal hypertension. Additionally, spleen stiffness predicts the occurrence of clinical complications, which is of paramount importance in clinical practice.

In patients with cirrhosis, increasing blood pressure in the abdominal (known as ) leads to potentially lethal complications which might be prevented with simple medical treatment. Patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension have increased gastrointestinal which allows the movement of bacteria or bacterial components through the lining of the gut into the in a process known as bacterial translocation. Bacterial components such as lipopolysaccharide can be involved in the genesis of complications of cirrhosis.

The first study evaluated the effects of a non-selective beta-blocker (NSBB) on gastrointestinal permeability and bacterial translocation in patients with cirrhosis with high levels of portal hypertension.1 Patients with severe portal hypertension (HVPG* ≥20mmHg) had increased markers of gastrointestinal permeability and bacterial translocation compared to patients with lower levels of portal hypertension (HVPG<20mmHg). Treatment with NSBB significantly reduced HVPG, improved gastrointestinal permeability and decreased bacterial translocation (LPS-binding protein (LBP) -16% p=0.018; IL-6 -41% p< 0.0001) levels.

Patients who were found to have the highest levels of gastrointestinal permeability were also found to be at most risk of bleeding from oesophageal varices; a complication of cirrhosis which carries a of mortality.

These findings provide a new rationale for the use of non-selective beta-blockers in patients with cirrhosis. EASL's Treasurer Prof. Mauro Bernardi commented on the data: "The movement of bacteria from the gut and into the is extremely serious and potentially fatal in patients with cirrhosis often leading to complications or death. Beta-blockers have been successfully used in a number of conditions and as a standard treatment to control blood pressure in other disease areas. In cirrhosis, they have been used for decades for primary and secondary prophylaxis of bleeding from oesophageal varices. The results of this study show that besides improving portal , as it was thought up to now, their beneficial effects are also due to their ability to reduce bacterial translocation which may widen the indications for the use of these drugs in this setting."

In the diagnostic landscape, promising data to support the validity of non-invasive techniques were also presented at the congress. HVPG, an invasive measurement technique currently considered as the best predictor to identify progression to severe scarring of the liver and disrupted essential body functions (clinical decompensation), was compared to techniques such as the evaluation of spleen (SS) combined with the MELD** score.2  

The study showed that in compensated (early) patients with cirrhosis both the SS (p<0.0001) and the MELD (p=0.016) score provided an accurate prediction of clinical decompensation, and their combination in a new score had a predicting power even superior to that of HVPG.

Prof. Mauro Bernardi added, "HVPG is an invasive technique, which can often be discomforting for patients, is only performed in specialised centres and needs experienced operators to be fully reliable. While further studies will be required, if non-invasive techniques continue to present accurate predictions, they would be welcomed in the overall management of compensated patients with cirrhosis."

Explore further: Intestinal macrophages in liver cirrhosis produce NO, disrupt intestinal barrier function

More information: References:

1 Reiberger, T et al, IMPROVEMENT OF INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY AND REDUCING BACTERIAL TRANSLOCATION BY BETABLOCKER TREATMENT IS ASSOCIATED WITH A LOWER RISK OF VARICEAL BLEEDING. Abstract presented at the International Liver Congress 2013

2 Colecchia, A et al, SPLEEN AND LIVER STIFFNESS MEASUREMENT CAN PREDICT CLINICAL COMPLICATIONS IN COMPENSATED CIRRHOTIC PATIENTS: A PROSPECTIVE STUDY Abstract presented at the International Liver Congress 2013

Related Stories

Intestinal macrophages in liver cirrhosis produce NO, disrupt intestinal barrier function

April 19, 2012
A South African study presented today determines the importance of bacterial infections, which commonly occur in cirrhosis and can alter the natural history of the condition, possibly leading to loss of liver function and ...

Recommended for you

Co-infection with two common gut pathogens worsens malnutrition in mice

July 27, 2017
Two gut pathogens commonly found in malnourished children combine to worsen malnutrition and impair growth in laboratory mice, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Finish your antibiotics course? Maybe not, experts say

July 27, 2017
British disease experts on Thursday suggested doing away with the "incorrect" advice to always finish a course of antibiotics, saying the approach was fuelling the spread of drug resistance.

Phase 3 trial confirms superiority of tocilizumab to steroids for giant cell arteritis

July 26, 2017
A phase 3 clinical trial has confirmed that regular treatment with tocilizumab, an inhibitor of interleukin-6, successfully reduced both symptoms of and the need for high-dose steroid treatment for giant cell arteritis, the ...

A large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals

July 26, 2017
When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate ...

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.