Albumin in decompensated cirrhosis: new concepts and perspectives

Gut. 2020 Jun;69(6):1127-1138. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-318843. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


The pathophysiological background of decompensated cirrhosis is characterised by a systemic proinflammatory and pro-oxidant milieu that plays a major role in the development of multiorgan dysfunction. Such abnormality is mainly due to the systemic spread of bacteria and/or bacterial products from the gut and danger-associated molecular patterns from the diseased liver triggering the release of proinflammatory mediators by activating immune cells. The exacerbation of these processes underlies the development of acute-on-chronic liver failure. A further mechanism promoting multiorgan dysfunction and failure likely consists with a mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation dysfunction responsible for systemic cellular energy crisis. The systemic proinflammatory and pro-oxidant state of patients with decompensated cirrhosis is also responsible for structural and functional changes in the albumin molecule, which spoil its pleiotropic non-oncotic properties such as antioxidant, scavenging, immune-modulating and endothelium protective functions. The knowledge of these abnormalities provides novel targets for mechanistic treatments. In this respect, the oncotic and non-oncotic properties of albumin make it a potential multitarget agent. This would expand the well-established indications to the use of albumin in decompensated cirrhosis, which mainly aim at improving effective volaemia or preventing its deterioration. Evidence has been recently provided that long-term albumin administration to patients with cirrhosis and ascites improves survival, prevents complications, eases the management of ascites and reduces hospitalisations. However, variant results indicate that further investigations are needed, aiming at confirming the beneficial effects of albumin, clarifying its optimal dosage and administration schedule and identify patients who would benefit most from long-term albumin administration.

Keywords: liver cirrhosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute-On-Chronic Liver Failure / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism*


  • Serum Albumin