Background: Acute renal failure (ARF) is a life-threatening entity that frequently complicates advanced liver disease. This study documents a number of factors that may predispose to or precipitate ARF and influence outcomes in patients with advanced liver disease. Comparisons are also made between subgroups of patients with viral and alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis in those with ARF.
Patients and methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review over one year of 127 consecutive hospital admissions in 82 patients who were diagnosed with advanced liver cirrhosis (Child-Pugh Class C) in a tertiary care center. A diagnosis of ARF was made in 29 admissions and another 98 admissions not complicated by ARF served as controls. This study evaluated different etiologies of ARF and developed a database which included clinical features, biochemical parameters, the etiology of cirrhosis, possible predisposing factors, and precipitating events. Version II of the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Physiology Scoring system (APACHE II) was applied to predict short-term hospital mortality rates.
Results: ARF occurred in 29 admissions over the one-year study period (23%). The mean age of these patients was 56.8 +/- 12.0 years, and 73% were men. The patients with ARF had significant hyponatremia and higher levels of serum bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and white cell counts on admission than the controls. Patients who developed ARF were more likely to have had infection, especially septicemia, and gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. Mortality rate in the patients with ARF was much higher than in those patients without ARF (72% vs. 13%, p < 0.001). The patients with viral cirrhosis and ARF were found to have higher leukocyte counts, serum bilirubin levels, and more frequent incidence of infection, septicemia and GI bleeding compared to the patients with alcoholic liver cirrhosis and ARF. Those with viral hepatitis were also significantly older and had more frequent incidence of ascites, but had lower levels of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and less frequent incidence of encephalopathy.
Conclusions: The risk of ARF is significantly increased in patients with advanced liver cirrhosis presenting with marked hyperbilirubinemia, hyponatremia, elevated liver enzymes, infection, and GI bleeding. The presence of ARF leads to higher mortality rates in both viral and alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis.