The use of vasoconstrictors in patients with cirrhosis: type 1 HRS and beyond

Hepatology. 2006 Mar;43(3):385-94. doi: 10.1002/hep.21094.


In patients with cirrhosis and type 1 hepatorenal syndrome (HRS), systemic vasodilation, which is mainly attributable to splanchnic vasodilation, plays a critical role in the activation of endogenous vasoconstrictor systems, resulting in renal vasoconstriction and functional renal failure. It has been suggested that the use of splanchnic (and systemic) vasoconstrictors such as terlipressin (a vasopressin analog) or alpha-1-adrenoceptor agonists (midodrine or noradrenaline) may improve renal function in patients with type 1 HRS. Six studies (with only one randomized study in a small series of patients) have shown that terlipressin improves renal function in these patients. However, there is evidence that terlipressin alone may be less effective than terlipressin combined with intravenous albumin in improving renal function. Future randomized studies should confirm this difference and evaluate the impact of terlipressin therapy (with or without intravenous albumin) on survival. Interestingly, in nonrandomized studies, the use of alpha-1 agonists combined with other therapies (octreotide and albumin for midodrine; furosemide and albumin for noradrenaline) has been shown to improve renal function in patients with type 1 HRS. The efficacy and safety of combined therapies including alpha-1 agonists should be confirmed in randomized studies. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that vasoconstrictor administration may be a novel therapeutic approach targeting vasodilation involved in the mechanism of: (1) renal failure in type 2 HRS; (2) paracentesis-induced circulatory dysfunction; and (3) arterial hypotension induced by byproducts of gram-negative bacteria. Further studies are needed in all these fields.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hepatorenal Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Hepatorenal Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology
  • Lypressin / analogs & derivatives
  • Lypressin / pharmacology
  • Lypressin / therapeutic use
  • Paracentesis / adverse effects
  • Shock, Septic / drug therapy
  • Splanchnic Circulation / drug effects
  • Splanchnic Circulation / physiology
  • Terlipressin
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / pharmacology
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Vasodilation / drug effects
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Lypressin
  • Terlipressin