1 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia.
2 Liver Transplant Unit, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Portal hypertension contributes to the pathogenesis of malnutrition and sarcopenia in cirrhosis via multiple mechanisms. Terlipressin is a vasopressin analogue that we administer via continuous outpatient infusion, as a bridge to transplantation in patients with hepatorenal syndrome or refractory ascites. We describe, for the first time, the impact of outpatient terlipressin on nutritional and muscle parameters.
METHODS: Nutrition (subjective global assessment), handgrip strength, dietary intake (energy, protein), frequency of paracentesis and severity of liver disease (model for end-stage liver disease score) were prospectively recorded at terlipressin commencement and follow-up (transplantation, cessation or census date).
RESULTS: Nineteen patients were included (89% male, median age 59.6 years, median model for end-stage liver disease score 24), of whom 12 had hepatorenal syndrome and 7 had refractory ascites. All patients were malnourished at baseline, 63% (n = 12) had sarcopenic-range grip strength, and mean paracentesis frequency was 2.86 ± 1.62/month. Median duration of terlipressin was 51 days (interquartile range 29-222). Fourteen patients (74%) were transplanted, 2 delisted (10%) and 3 (16%) continued terlipressin. Energy and protein intake improved significantly following terlipressin, from 17.94 ± 5.43 kcal/kg to 27.70 ± 7.48 kcal/kg, and 0.74 ± 0.28 g/kg to 1.16 ± 0.31 g/kg, respectively (both p < 0.001). Handgrip strength increased from 25.36 ± 8.13 kg to 28.49 ± 7.63 kg (p = 0.001). Linear regression analysis demonstrated hand grip strength increased 0.075% for every 1-day of terlipressin (p = 0.005). The frequency of large-volume paracentesis reduced by 46%, to 1.57 ± 1.51/month (p = 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Continuous terlipressin infusion reduces the complications of portal hypertension and is associated with an improvement in nutritional and muscle parameters in patients on the liver transplant waiting list, in whom such characteristics usually demonstrate progressive decline. This validates both the aetiological role of portal hypertension in malnutrition and represents a promising new anabolic therapy.
LAY SUMMARY: Malnutrition and poor muscle strength are common in liver disease and often get worse while patients await liver transplant. Terlipressin is a medication used to treat portal hypertension in patients with hepatorenal syndrome. It is usually given for a few days or weeks in patients confined to hospital. Our centre provides outpatient terlipressin for weeks to months as a bridge to liver transplant. In patients treated with terlipressin at our hospital, we observed a substantial increase in their dietary intake and muscle strength, which may improve their quality of life and outcomes after liver transplant.