- 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
- 2Gastroenterology Section, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
- 3Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Background: Hepatic encephalopathy is a devastating complication of cirrhosis.
Aim: To describe the outcomes after developing hepatic encephalopathy among contemporary, aging patients.
Methods: We examined data for a 20% random sample of United States Medicare enrolees with cirrhosis and Part D prescription coverage from 2008 to 2014. Among 49 164 persons with hepatic encephalopathy, we evaluated the associations with transplant-free survival using Cox proportional hazard models with time-varying covariates (hazard ratios, HR) and incidence rate ratios (IRR) for healthcare utilisation measured in hospital-days and 30-day readmissions per person-year. We validated our findings in an external cohort of 2184 privately insured patients with complete laboratory values.
Results: Hepatic encephalopathy was associated with median survivals of 0.95 and 2.5 years for those ≥65 or <65 years old and 1.1 versus 3.9 years for those with and without ascites. Non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease posed the highest adjusted risk of death among aetiologies, HR 1.07 95% CI (1.02, 1.12). Both gastroenterology consultation and rifaximin utilisation were associated with lower mortality, respective adjusted-HR 0.73 95% CI (0.67, 0.80) and 0.40 95% CI (0.39, 0.42). Thirty-day readmissions were fewer for patients seen by gastroenterologists (0.71 95% CI [0.57-0.88]) and taking rifaximin (0.18 95% CI [0.08-0.40]). Lactulose alone was associated with fewer hospital-days, IRR 0.31 95% CI (0.30-0.32), than rifaximin alone, 0.49 95% CI (0.45-0.53), but the optimal therapy combination was lactulose/rifaximin, IRR 0.28 95% CI (0.27-0.30). These findings were validated in the privately insured cohort adjusting for model for endstage liver disease-sodium score and serum albumin.
Conclusions: Hepatic encephalopathy remains morbid and associated with poor outcomes among contemporary patients. Gastroenterology consultation and combination lactulose-rifaximin are both associated with improved outcomes. These data inform the development of care coordination efforts for subjects with cirrhosis.