Purpose: Hypoxic hepatitis (HH) is a form of hepatic injury following arterial hypoxemia, ischemia, and passive congestion of the liver. We investigated the incidence and the prognostic implications of HH in the medical intensive care unit (ICU).
Methods: A total of 1,066 consecutive ICU admissions at three medical ICUs of a university hospital were included in this prospective cohort study. All patients were screened prospectively for the presence of HH according to established criteria. Independent risk factors of mortality in this cohort of critically ill patients were identified by a multivariate Poisson regression model.
Results: A total of 118 admissions (11%) had HH during their ICU stay. These patients had different baseline characteristics, longer median ICU stay (8 vs. 6 days, p < 0.001), and decreased ICU survival (43 vs. 83%, p < 0.001). The crude mortality rate ratio of admissions with HH was 4.62 (95% CI 3.63-5.86, p < 0.001). Regression analysis demonstrated strong mortality risk for admissions with HH requiring vasopressor therapy (adjusted rate ratio 4.91; 95% CI 2.51-9.60, p < 0.001), whereas HH was not significantly associated with mortality in admissions without vasopressor therapy (adjusted rate ratio 1.79, 95% CI 0.52-6.23, p = 0.359).
Conclusions: Hypoxic hepatitis (HH) occurs frequently in the medical ICU. The presence of HH is a strong risk factor for mortality in the ICU in patients requiring vasopressor therapy.