Home-Based System Relieves Refractory Ascites in Cirrhosis

Jim Kling

December 16, 2021

A home-based tunneled peritoneal catheter (PeCa) drainage system provided significant relief for patients with refractory ascites who were not candidates for transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS).

For these patients, the current standard of care is repeated large volume paracentesis, but this can require frequent hospital trips that can be costly and onerous.

The PeCa system consists of one part that lays in the peritoneal cavity, then a tunnel through subcutaneous tissue and an external port where the patient can connect drainage bags. It has been tested and found to provide relief for patients with malignant ascites, but there is little data available for patients with cirrhosis, according to Tammo Lambert Tergast, MD, who presented the study at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Tergast is a resident in the department of gastroenterology, hepatology, and endocrinology at Hannover (Germany) Medical School.

"Patients with refractory ascites have a very high risk for rehospitalization, AKI [acute kidney injury], and death. Our data indicate that PeCa could be a valuable new treatment option for patients with refractory ascites and contraindication for TIPS. However, the risk for hyponatremia and AKI has to be considered and further explored," said Tergast during his presentation.

The researchers retrospectively analyzed outcomes in 152 patients with refractory ascites who received a PeCa implant and 71 patients who received standard of care (SOC), which included repeated large volume paracentesis and albumin. The median explant-free survival was 74 days, and just under 50% were explant free at 90 days.

52 patients had the PeCa system removed: 54% because of an infection, 15% because of liver transplant, 12% because of dysfunction, and 10% because of accidental removal.

Factors associated with 90-day survival included PeCa (hazard ratio, 0.52; P = .05) and each point of Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score (HR, 1.16; P = .001). There was a trend toward a higher incidence of hyponatremia in the PeCa group (P = .09).

Hospitalizations were more common in the PeCa group (P = .035), but there was no significant difference in mortality between the two groups. Reasons for hospitalization included spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP; 18% in PeCa vs. 8% of SOC), hyponatremia (10% vs. 0%), and infections other than SBP (4% and 16%).

A propensity score–matched analysis that included age, history of SBP, platelet count, serum albumin levels, and MELD score found no significant differences between the two groups, but there were trends in the PeCa group towards higher 90-day survival (P = .16) and a higher frequency of acute kidney injury (P = .08).

Although the appropriate patient population for the system would be small, "once you get to refractory ascites, management of these individuals is really, really challenging, especially people that had contraindications to a TIPS procedure. Anything that you can do to improve their quality of life and help with management is definitely desired," said Nancy Reau, MD, who was asked to comment on the study. Reau is chief of the section of hepatology at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.

The study found little difference in infection risk between the PeCa and standard of care group, but there was a trend toward more hyponatremia in the PeCa group. That could be caused by reduced contact with the health system, according to Reau, since physicians may be keeping an eye on electrolytes, diuretics, and other factors during paracentesis visits. "But as long as you're setting up home nursing or some other way to make sure that you're managing them appropriately, that should be something that is overcome with awareness," said Reau.

During the question-and-answer following the presentation, Tergast was asked about the heightened frequency of hospitalizations in the PeCa group. He posited that the observation may be caused by the retrospective nature of the study. His center is a tertiary care center, which accepts referrals from all over Germany. When a problem occurs with a PeCa, patients often get referred back to the tertiary center, leading to a higher number of hospitalizations observed in that group. "So this might be a bias in the analysis," he said.

"I think if we can optimize the treatment after discharge, we can also minimize the rehospitalization in these patients. Rehospitalization rate because of ascites was quite low," said Tergast.

Tergast and Reau have no relevant financial disclosures.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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