Are combination synthetic vasoconstrictors effective for the treatment of hepatorenal syndrome (HRS)?

Updated: Oct 16, 2017
  • Author: Deepika Devuni, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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The combination of ornipressin and albumin was subsequently tried by Guevera in patients with HRS. [34, 35] This was based on data suggesting that the combination of plasma volume expansion and vasoconstrictors normalized renal sodium and water handling in patients who have cirrhosis with ascites. In this important paper, 8 patients were originally to be treated for 15 days with ornipressin and albumin. Treatment had to be discontinued in 4 patients after fewer than 9 days because of complications from ornipressin use that included ischemic colitis, tongue ischemia, and glossitis. Although a marked improvement in the serum creatinine level was observed during treatment, renal function deteriorated upon treatment withdrawal. In the remaining 4 patients, the improvement in RPF and the GFR was significant and was associated with a reduction in serum creatinine levels. These patients subsequently died, but no recurrence of HRS was observed.

Due to the high incidence of severe adverse effects with ornipressin, the same investigators used another vasopressin analogue with fewer adverse effects, namely terlipressin. In this study, 9 patients were treated with terlipressin and albumin for 5-15 days. This was associated with a marked reduction in serum creatinine levels and improvement in mean arterial pressure. Reversal of HRS was noted in 7 of 9 patients, and HRS did not recur when treatment was discontinued. No adverse ischemic effects were reported, and, according to this study, terlipressin with albumin is a safe and effective treatment of HRS.

Since this early study, terlipressin has become the most studied vasopressin analogue in HRS. When used in conjunction with albumin, improvement in GFR and reduction in serum creatinine levels to below 1.5 mg/dL occur in 60-75% of patients with type 1 HRS. This may take several days, and although recurrent HRS after treatment discontinuation is uncommon (< 15%), a repeat course of terlipressin with albumin is usually effective. Ischemic complications are also rare (< 5%), but one limitation of terlipressin is its unavailability in many countries, including the United States. Under these circumstances, such agents as octreotide, albumin, and alpha-adrenergic agonists may be considered. [36]

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