1 Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA.
2 Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA.
3 Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN, USA.
# Contributed equally
Renal failure is a challenging problem in patients with cirrhosis since mortality increases with worsening renal function, hence the inclusion of serum creatinine in calculating the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score for liver transplant evaluation. Among the various causes, infection is the leading etiology of mortality associated with cirrhosis. Bacterial infection frequently precipitates renal failure in patients with cirrhosis with the reported prevalence around 34%. Patients with cirrhosis are at increased risk of infections due to impaired immunity and increased gut permeability leading to bacterial translocation in the setting of portal hypertension. One of the most feared complications of severely decompensated liver and renal failure is hepatorenal syndrome, of which liver transplant may be the only available treatment. Furthermore, in those with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and urinary tract infection, progressive renal failure occurs despite resolution of infection. Thus, the effects of endotoxemia on renal function in cirrhosis have become a major focus of research. The mechanisms of the damaging effects of endotoxin on renal function are complex but, in essence, involve dysregulated inflammation, circulatory dysfunction, poor clearance of endotoxin burden, as well as vasomotor nephropathy. In this article, we will review the mechanisms of endotoxemia-induced renal dysfunction in the setting of cirrhosis through the effects on renal blood flow, renal vascular endothelium, glomerular filtration rate, and tubular function.