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Treatment of alcoholic liver disease

Ashutosh Barve, Rehan Khan, Luis Marsano, Kadiyala V Ravindra, Craig McClain


Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality both in the United States and worldwide. In the United States, it is projected that over 2,000,000 persons have ALD, and the mortality for cirrhosis with superimposed alcoholic hepatitis is much worse than that of many common types of cancer. Unfortunately, there is no FDA approved therapy for ALD. We have made major strides in the last decade in identifying mechanisms for the development of liver injury in ALD, and therapies are evolving directed at specific mechanisms. It is clear that life style modification with abstinence, cessation of smoking and weight loss (if overweight) are beneficial. It is also clear that most patients with advanced liver disease have some form of malnutrition, and nutritional supplementation is of benefit. Patients with alcoholic hepatitis that is relatively severe in nature, but not complicated by issues such as infection or GI bleeding, appear to benefit from steroids. A drop in bilirubin should be monitored in steroid treated patients. Pentoxifylline appears to be beneficial in patients with alcoholic hepatitis, especially those with early hepatorenal syndrome. A variety of other agents such as PTU, lecithin, colchicine, and anabolic steroids are probably not effective. Complementary and alternative medicine agents such as zinc, milk thistle, and SAM have great therapeutic rationale. Results of ongoing NIH studies evaluating agents such as specific anti-TNF's, SAM and Milk Thistle are eagerly awaited. Transplantation is clearly an option for end stage ALD in patients who are abstinent.

Key words. Nutrition, steroids, tumor necrosis factor, transplantation

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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