Management and Treatment of Patients With Cirrhosis and Portal Hypertension: Recommendations From the Department of Veterans Affairs Hepatitis C Resource Center Program and the National Hepatitis C Program
Cirrhosis represents the end stage of any chronic liver disease. Hepatitis C and alcohol are currently the main causes of cirrhosis in the United States. Although initially cirrhosis is compensated, it eventually becomes decompensated, as defined by the presence of ascites, variceal hemorrhage, encephalopathy, and/or jaundice. These management recommendations are divided according to the status, compensated or decompensated, of the cirrhotic patient, with a separate section for the screening, diagnosis, and management of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), as this applies to patients with both compensated and decompensated cirrhosis. In the compensated patient, the main objective is to prevent variceal hemorrhage and any practice that could lead to decompensation. In the decompensated patient, acute variceal hemorrhage and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis are severe complications that require hospitalization. Hepatorenal syndrome is also a severe complication of cirrhosis but one that usually occurs in patients who are already in the hospital and, as it represents an extreme of the hemodynamic alterations that lead to ascites formation, it is placed under treatment of ascites. Recent advances in the pathophysiology of the complications of cirrhosis have allowed for a more rational management of cirrhosis and also for the stratification of patients into different risk groups that require different management. These recommendations are based on evidence in the literature, mainly from randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses of these trials. When few or no data exist from well-designed prospective trials, emphasis is given to results from large series and consensus conferences with involvement of recognized experts. A rational management of cirrhosis will result in improvements in quality of life, treatment adherence, and, ultimately, in outcomes.