Intestinal failure-associated liver disease: what do we know today?

Gastroenterology. 2006 Feb;130(2 Suppl 1):S70-7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2005.10.066.


Intestinal failure-associated liver disease develops in 40% to 60% of infants who require long-term total parenteral nutrition (TPN) for intestinal failure and 15% to 40% of adults on home parenteral nutrition. The clinical spectrum includes hepatic steatosis, cholestasis, cholelithiasis, and hepatic fibrosis. Progression to biliary cirrhosis and the development of portal hypertension and liver failure occurs in a minority but is more common in infants and neonates than in adults. The pathogenesis is multifactorial. In infants it is related to prematurity, low birth weight, duration of PN, short bowel syndrome requiring multiple laparotomies, and recurrent sepsis. Other important mechanisms include lack of enteral feeding, which leads to reduced gut hormone secretion; reduction of bile flow and biliary stasis, which leads to the development of cholestasis; and biliary sludge and gallstones, which exacerbate hepatic dysfunction. In adults, IFALD is less common and related to age, length of time on PN, total caloric intake, and lipid or glucose overload. In preterm infants, a deficiency of taurine or cysteine may play a role, whereas in both adults and children, choline deficiency may exacerbate IFALD. Lipid emulsions, choline deficiency, and manganese toxicity are associated with both hepatic steatosis and cholestasis in adults and children. Management strategies for the prevention of intestinal failure-induced liver disease include early enteral feeding, a multidisciplinary approach to the management of parenteral nutrition, and aseptic catheter techniques to reduce sepsis. The addition of choline, taurine, and cysteine to PN solutions may also play a role. Oral administration of ursodeoxycholic acid may improve bile flow and reduce gallbladder stasis. Survival after either isolated small bowel or combined liver and small bowel transplantation is approximately 50% at 5 years, making this an acceptable therapeutic option in adults and children with irreversible liver and intestinal failure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver Diseases / etiology*
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / physiopathology
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / complications*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / therapy*
  • Parenteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors