Palliative care in decompensated cirrhosis: A review

Liver Int. 2018 May;38(5):768-775. doi: 10.1111/liv.13620. Epub 2018 Jan 15.


Decompensated cirrhosis is an illness that causes tremendous suffering. The incidence of cirrhosis is increasing and rates of liver transplant, the only cure, remain stagnant. Palliative care is focused on improving quality of life for patients with serious illness by addressing advanced care planning, alleviating physical symptoms and providing emotional support to the patient and family. Palliative care is used infrequently in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. The allure of transplant as a potential treatment option for cirrhosis, misperceptions about the role of palliative care and difficulty predicting prognosis in liver disease are potential contributors to the underutilization of palliative care in this patient population. Studies have demonstrated some benefit of palliative care in patients with decompensated cirrhosis but the literature is limited to small observational studies. There is evidence that palliative care consultation in other patient populations lowers hospital costs and ICU utilization and improves symptom control and patient satisfaction. Prospective randomized control trials are needed to investigate the effects of palliative care on traditional- and patient-reported outcomes as well as cost of care in decompensated cirrhosis for transplant eligible and ineligible patient populations.

Keywords: cirrhosis; liver transplantation; palliative care; patient-reported outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hospital Costs
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / therapy*
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Quality of Life
  • Referral and Consultation