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Key Clinical Updates in Cirrhosis

In patients with clinically significant portal hypertension, carvedilol, a nonselective beta receptor antagonist with alpha-1 blocking activity, appears to reduce the frequency of decompensating events, although it may lead to hypotension particularly in patients with decompensated cirrhosis.

Tandon P et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. [PMID: 33221550]

Vancomycin should be added in patients with prior bacterial peritonitis or a positive surveillance swab for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Daptomycin should be added in patients with a positive surveillance swab for vancomycin-resistant enterococcus. Meropenem can be used in patients with current or recent exposure to piperacillin-tazobactam.

Biggins SW et al. Hepatology. [PMID: 33942342]


  • Result of injury that leads to both fibrosis and regenerative nodules.

  • May be reversible if cause is removed.

  • The clinical features result from hepatic cell dysfunction, portosystemic shunting, and portal hypertension.


Cirrhosis is the result of hepatocellular injury with inflammation that leads to both fibrosis and regenerative nodules throughout the liver. The prevalence rate is 0.27%, with an estimated 1.5 billion persons having chronic liver disease and 2.14 million liver-related deaths worldwide. Hospitalization rates for cirrhosis and portal hypertension are rising in the United States, and patients with chronic liver disease have longer hospital stays, more readmissions, and less access to post-acute care than patients with other chronic diseases. Causes include chronic viral hepatitis; alcohol; drug toxicity; autoimmune and metabolic liver diseases, including NAFLD; and miscellaneous disorders. Celiac disease appears to be associated with an increased risk of cirrhosis. Many patients have more than one risk factor (eg, chronic hepatitis and alcohol use) and likely genetic predisposition. Mexican American and Black persons have a higher frequency of cirrhosis than White persons because of a higher rate of risk factors. In persons at increased risk for liver injury (eg, heavy alcohol use, obesity, iron overload), higher coffee and tea consumption and statin use reduce the risk of cirrhosis. The risk of hospitalization or death due to cirrhosis has been reported to correlate with protein and cholesterol consumption and with hyperuricemia and inversely with carbohydrate consumption.

The most common histologic classification divides cirrhosis into micronodular, macronodular, and mixed forms. These are descriptive terms rather than separate diseases, and each form may be seen in the same patient at different stages of the disease. In micronodular cirrhosis—typical of alcohol-associated liver disease (Laennec cirrhosis)—the regenerative nodules (eFigure 16–17) are no larger than the original lobules, ie, approximately 1 mm in diameter or less. Macronodular cirrhosis is characterized by larger nodules, which can measure several centimeters in diameter and may contain central veins (eFigure 16–18). This form corresponds more or less to postnecrotic (posthepatitic) cirrhosis but does not necessarily follow episodes of massive necrosis and stromal collapse. Clinically, cirrhosis is considered to progress through three stages that correlate with the thickness of fibrous septa: compensated, compensated with varices, and decompensated (ascites, ...

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