Due to portal hypertension and bleeding disorders, patients with liver cirrhosis are at increased risk for severe gastrointestinal bleedings (GIB), commonly requiring therapy at the intensive care unit (ICU). In order to identify epidemiological and prognostic factors for GIB in cirrhotic patients, we retrospectively analysed patients from our medical ICU from 1999 to 2010. Among 7376 critically ill patients, 650 (8.8 %) were diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. Hepatic cirrhosis was frequently found in ICU patients admitted due to severe GIB (23.2 % of 711 patients had cirrhosis). Moreover, patients with cirrhosis were at increased risk to develop severe GIB during intensive care treatment (40.9 % of 44 patients with GIB during ICU stay had cirrhosis). Besides the high rate of variceal bleedings (64.4 %) in cirrhotic patients, non-variceal haemorrhages were also common (28.5 %). We identified the MELD score and necessity of mechanical ventilation as independent risk factors for mortality in cirrhotic patients with severe GIB. Patients with liver cirrhosis and severe GIB had significantly impaired prognosis (case-related fatality rate of 26.1 % with cirrhosis vs. 6.8 % without cirrhosis), especially in cases of newly developed GIB during ICU therapy. Advanced therapeutic approaches and novel strategies are warranted to improve the critical prognosis of these high-risk patients.
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