- European Foundation for Study of Chronic Liver Failure, EF-Clif, Barcelona, Spain Translational Hepatology, Internal Medicine I, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark Institute of Bioengineering Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Purpose of review: Albumin has been used primarily as a plasma expander, since it leads to an increase in the circulating blood volume. Current generally recommended indications for albumin therapy in cirrhotic patients are the prevention of circulatory dysfunction after large-volume paracentesis, the prevention of hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) in patients with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), and the management of HRS in combination with vasoconstrictors. Yet, new indications for albumin have been tested in the recent years and are outlined in this short review.
Recent findings: New data show that albumin both supports the circulation and reduces systemic inflammation. In addition, to its oncotic function, it acts as an antioxidant, radical scavenger, and immune modulator. These nononcotic properties explain why long-term albumin administration in patients with decompensated cirrhosis may be useful in the prevention of associated complications (acute-on-chronic liver failure, infections). New data show that long-term albumin therapy in patients with cirrhosis and ascites improves survival, prevents complications, simplifies ascites management, and lowers hospitalization rates. The so-called disease-modifying effects of long-term albumin therapy may have a favorable effect on the course of the disease. Nevertheless, the optimal dosage and administration intervals have not yet been finally defined.
Summary: Albumin therapy is effective in the indications already recommended by the guidelines. A possible extension of the indication for albumin administration in non-SBP infections and as long-term therapy is promising, but should be confirmed by further studies.