The Role of Liver Transplantation in Alcoholic Hepatitis

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Abstract

Acute alcoholic hepatitis is a syndrome of jaundice and hepatic decompensation that occurs with excessive alcohol consumption. The diagnosis can be made with a combination of clinical characteristics and laboratory studies, though biopsy may be required in unclear cases. Acute alcoholic hepatitis can range from mild to severe disease, as determined by a Maddrey discriminant function ≥32. Mild forms can be managed with supportive care and abstinence from alcohol. While mild form has an overall good prognosis, severe alcoholic hepatitis is associated with an extremely high short-term mortality of up to 50%. Additional complications of severe alcoholic hepatitis can include hepatic encephalopathy, gastrointestinal bleeding, renal failure, and infection; these patients frequently require intensive care unit admission. Corticosteroids may have short-term benefit in this group of patients if there are no contraindications; however, a subset of patients do not respond to steroids. New emerging therapies, which target hepatic regeneration, bile acid metabolism, and extracorporeal liver support, are being investigated. Liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease was traditionally only considered in patients who have achieved 6 months of abstinence, in part due to social and ethical concerns regarding the use of a limited resource. However, the majority of patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis who fail medical therapy will not live long enough to meet this requirement. Recent studies have demonstrated that early liver transplantation in carefully selected patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis who fail medical therapy can provide a significant survival benefit and yields survival outcomes comparable to liver transplantation for other indications, with 6-month survival rates ranging from 77% to 100%. Alcohol relapse posttransplantation remains an important challenge, and heavy consumption can contribute to graft loss and mortality. Future investigation should address the substantial post-liver transplantation recidivism rate, from improving selection criteria to increasing posttransplantation substance abuse treatment resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-291
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

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Keywords

  • alcoholic liver disease
  • therapy
  • transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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