Published online Jun 28, 2012. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i24.3035
Revised: August 14, 2011
Accepted: March 9, 2012
Published online: June 28, 2012
Acute kidney injury (AKI), defined as an abrupt increase in the serum creatinine level by at least 0.3 mg/dL, occurs in about 20% of patients hospitalized for decompensating liver cirrhosis. Patients with cirrhosis are susceptible to developing AKI because of the progressive vasodilatory state, reduced effective blood volume and stimulation of vasoconstrictor hormones. The most common causes of AKI in cirrhosis are pre-renal azotemia, hepatorenal syndrome and acute tubular necrosis. Differential diagnosis is based on analysis of circumstances of AKI development, natriuresis, urine osmolality, response to withdrawal of diuretics and volume repletion, and rarely on renal biopsy. Chronic glomerulonephritis and obstructive uropathy are rare causes of azotemia in cirrhotic patients. AKI is one of the last events in the natural history of chronic liver disease, therefore, such patients should have an expedited referral for liver transplantation. Hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) is initiated by progressive portal hypertension, and may be prematurely triggered by bacterial infections, nonbacterial systemic inflammatory reactions, excessive diuresis, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, diarrhea or nephrotoxic agents. Each type of renal disease has a specific treatment approach ranging from repletion of the vascular system to renal replacement therapy. The treatment of choice in type 1 hepatorenal syndrome is a combination of vasoconstrictor with albumin infusion, which is effective in about 50% of patients. The second-line treatment of HRS involves a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, renal vasoprotection or systems of artificial liver support.