Review article: depression and the use of antidepressants in patients with chronic liver disease or liver transplantation

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Oct;40(8):880-92. doi: 10.1111/apt.12925. Epub 2014 Sep 1.


Background: The scale of depression in patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) and those who have received orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is poorly characterised. Clinicians are uncertain of how best to manage depression within these patients.

Aims: To review the literature evaluating both the prevalence and impact of depression in patients with CLD and post-OLT, and to assess the safety and efficacy of antidepressant use within this context.

Methods: A PubMed search using the phrases 'chronic liver disease', 'cirrhosis', 'liver transplantation', 'depression', 'antidepressant' and the names of specific causes of liver disease and individual antidepressants.

Results: Over 30% of cirrhotic patients have depressive features, and they experience worse clinical outcomes than nondepressed cirrhotic patients. CLD patients with chronic hepatitis C are particularly prone to depression, partly related to the use of interferon therapy. OLT patients with depression have higher mortality rates than nondepressed patients; appropriate antidepressant use reverses this effect. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are effective and generally safe in both CLD and OLT patients.

Conclusions: Depression is much more prevalent in CLD or OLT patients than is generally recognised, and it adversely affects clinical outcomes. The reasons for this relationship are complex and multifactorial. Antidepressants are effective in both CLD and post-OLT, although lower doses or a reduced dosing frequency may be required to minimise side effects, e.g. exacerbation of hepatic encephalopathy. Further research is needed to establish optimal management of depression in these patients, including the potential role of nonpharmacological treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Liver Diseases / psychology
  • Liver Transplantation* / psychology
  • Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors