Treatment of alcoholic liver disease

Dig Dis. 2005;23(3-4):275-84. doi: 10.1159/000090175.


Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. For example, the Veterans Administration Cooperative Studies reported that patients with cirrhosis and superimposed alcoholic hepatitis had a 4-year mortality of >60% (worse than many common cancers such as breast and prostate). The cornerstone for therapy for ALD is lifestyle modification, including drinking cessation and treatment of decompensation, if appropriate. Nutrition intervention has been shown to play a positive role on both an in-patient and out-patient basis. Corticosteroids are effective in selected patients with alcoholic hepatitis, and treatment with pentoxifylline appears to be a promising anti-inflammatory therapy. Recent studies have indicated anti-TNFalpha therapy, at least for alcoholic hepatitis. Some complementary and alternative medicinal agents, such as milk thistle and S-adenosylmethionine, may be effective in alcoholic cirrhosis. Treatment of the complications of ALD can improve the quality of life and, in some cases, decrease short-term mortality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Diet*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / mortality*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / pathology
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / therapy*
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Pentoxifylline