Management of Variceal Bleeding

A 50 year-old man with a history of alcoholism attended to the emergency department having been found at home comatose.

He had a reduced Glasgow coma score on admission and was vomiting blood. He was not protecting his airway and was tachypnoeic, tachycardic and had a reduced systolic blood pressure. His oxygen saturations were low and there were coarse crackles on his chest. Old notes showed that on previous endoscopy oesophageal and gastric varices were found. He was cachectic with hepatosplenomegaly but no signs of ascites.. He was rumoured to be abstinent from alcohol and had been previously well up to one day ago when he was last seen. There was some report that he had been behaving oddly over the last 5 days though.

 

Supplemental oxygen was provided and the decision to intubate was made. An initial attempt to insert a Sengstaken-blakemore tube was abandoned until the patient was intubated using a rapid sequence intubation technique. The gastric balloon was inflated and put under tension. Blood tests showed a reduced haemoglobin level but no clotting abnormality. Transfusion of packed red cells was made.

Medical therapy included beginning a course of prophylactic antibiotics. Terlipressin was started at 2mg intravenously four times daily. He was also started on high dose proton pump inhibitors, lactulose and thiamine supplements.

The gastric balloon was left inflated for 10 hours and as there was no haemodynamic sign of further bleeding was then deflated. Oesophagogastrocopy the next morning on the intensive care unit showed only grade 1 varices with no recent stigmata of bleeding and some mild gastric erosions.

He continued to be haemodynamically stable and sedation was weaned. He did not wake up as expected on sedation hold and his ammonia level was found to be raised. Over the course of the next 2 days he improved and was extubated successfully and discharged to the ward.

Describe the management of variceal bleeding.

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Vasopressin Versus Vasopressin Analogues in Septic Shock

A 52 year old female was admitted to the ICU with septic shock secondary to cholangitis. She had liver cirrhosis secondary to alcoholic liver disease, although she had been abstinent since an admission with acute alcoholic hepatitis  2 years previously. She had recently entered the assessment pathway for orthotopic liver transplantation.

She presented to the Emergency Department with a short history of fever and confusion and falls. She was pyrexial, tachycardic and hypotensive. Her inflammatory markers were elevated and her liver enzyme profile suggested cholestasis. There were no other localising features on examination or preliminary investigation.

She was commenced in the ED on broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy (piperacillin-tazobactam) and fluid resuscitation consisting of Hartmann’s solution and 4% human albumin solution. Her blood pressure remained labile throughout the early part of her admission. She fulfilled the criteria for septic shock with evidence of evolving multi-organ dysfunction.

 

The patient received early, aggressive multi-organ support. Tracheal intubation and pressure-controlled ventilation were instituted due to grade III/ IV encephalopathy and a high work of breathing in response to profound metabolic acidaemia. A thorough clinical assessment of intravascular volume status was conducted, suggesting that the patient was adequately filled. Vasopressor therapy was initiated using noradrenaline to achieve a target MAP of 65mmHg. CVVHDF was commenced to control the severe acidaemia and hyperlactataemia.

The patient was vasoplegic and remained profoundly hypotensive despite rapidly escalating doses of noradrenaline and the addition of hydrocortisone. Continued assessment of intravascular status confirmed adequate filling and cardiac output monitoring using a pulse-contour analysis system confirmed a low SVRI- high cardiac output state.  Her noradrenaline requirements soon exceeded 0.4mcg/kg/min-1, at this point a vasopressin infusion was introduced at 0.03units/hr-1. This was associated with an improvement in haemodynamic indices; the target MAP was achieved and thereafter remained stable with a slow reduction in noradrenaline requirement. On day 2 the continuous vasopressin infusion was converted to terlipressin by bolus dose regime (2mg QDS).

An urgent ultrasound scan of her biliary system revealed an obstructed common bile duct which was treated by percutaneous biliary drainage. An Enterococcus was isolated from drain fluid and blood cultures within 48 hours and antibiotic therapy tailored accordingly. The patient was weaned from organ support and discharged to the hepatology unit 9 days after admission.

What is the rationale for the use of vasopressin in septic shock? Are vasopressin analogues as effective?Read More »

Propofol Infusion Syndrome

A 28-year-old man was involved in a high-speed road traffic accident suffering severe head injury (diffuse axonal injury) with bilateral haemopneumothoraces and pulmonary contusions. He was transferred intubated and ventilated to the neurointensive care unit from a district general hospital for intra-cranial pressure (ICP) monitoring.

He was initially managed with bilateral chest drains and conservative neuroprotective measures for difficult to control ICP. He was heavily sedated on propofol (300mg/hr), midazolam (30mg/hr) and fentanyl (300mcg/hr).

Over the next few days his temperature increased and he became increasingly hypoxic. He subsequently developed ECG changes and a echocardiogram showed right heart failure. A diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, which was confirmed on CTPA a few days later which showed evidence of a small PE. He was not anticoagulated due to neurosurgical concern regarding his head injury.

Over the next few days he developed renal failure requiring renal replacement therapy and acute liver failure with hypoglycaemia and lactic acidosis. He developed severe cardiovascular failure requiring multiple inotropes and pulmonary artery catheter guided therapy. Lipids were found to be elevated, with creatine kinase >50,000 and myoglobin found in the urine. Propofol infusion syndrome was diagnosed. Sedation was stopped and he started to make a recovery.

What are the clinical features of propofol infusion syndrome?

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ICP Monitoring and Acute Liver Failure

ICP Monitoring and Acute Liver Failure

A 28-year-old lady presented to the medical team jaundiced with cramping upper abdominal pain and multiple episodes of vomiting over the previous day. She admitted ingesting Paracetamol 8 grams 3 days previously (staggered throughout the day) ostensibly to treat a frontal headache. She had been commenced on Citalopram 1 week previously for depression but denied taking any intentional overdose. On examination, she was slightly drowsy but GCS 15. HR 109, BP 136/92. Sats 98%on air. Her chest was clear, she was warm peripherally but jaundiced with some epigastric and RUQ tenderness on palpation. Her urine output was 10-20ml/hr.

Full Blood Count revealed Hb 152, WCC 24.7, Plats 301. She was in acute liver failure with Bil 189, AST 22970, ALT 13040, ALP 426 and coagulopathic with PT 82, APTT 72, Fib 0.7 Urea 5.7, Cr 193. Paracetamol and Salicylate were not detected. She was not acidotic with H+ 35, OCI2 3.7, pO2 17, Bic 20, BE –3. Lactate 7.1.

She was commenced on N-acetylcysteine and transferred to Critical Care. She was reviewed by the Hepatobiliary surgical team and placed on the super-urgent list for liver transplant. 

On Day 2, she became encephalopathic with GCS E3M5V5 and she was intubated and ventilated.Her PT had increased to 168 (INR >15) and she became anuric. She commenced FFP and Cryoprecipitate transfusions that improved her PT to 17, APTT 34 and Fibrinogen 1.5. An Intracranial Pressure (ICP) monitor was inserted and an opening pressure of 19mmHg was found. 2 hours post-insertion, it was noticed that her right pupil had increased in size from 2mm to 4mm and was poorly reactive. ICP remained at 16 and pCO2 4.1.

A brain CT showed a large haematoma in the right frontal region around the ICP bolt (which was not in the brain parenchyma but sitting in the skull) and mass effect with 5mm midline shift. There was also some lack of grey-white matter differentiation and sulcal effacement in keeping with diffuse oedema and mass effect.

INR was 1.7 and so further FFP was given. She was discussed with the neurosurgical registrar (in a separate hospital) who advised they would not drain at present but he would discuss with his Consultant and call back. 

Soon after, her right pupil increased to 8mm and the left to 7mm. Repeat CT brain showed slightly increased right frontal haematoma with 6mm midline shift and global oedematous cortical changes but no herniation. The ICP readings were thought to be inaccurate due to proximal placement and she was medically treated for raised ICP with hypertonic saline, mannitol and then therapeutic hypothermia. Despite this treatment, her pupils were fixed and dilated and so a thiopentone infusion was commenced.

The neurosurgeons advised that they would insert a further ICP monitor when INR <1.3 and so further FFP was given. An ICP bolt was inserted and the opening pressure was >120.

Discussions between the ICU, hepatobiliary and neurosurgical teams confirmed that she had a non-survivable injury and so this was discussed with her family. She was rewarmed, paralysis and then sedation were discontinued, brain stem death testing took place and she was extubated in the presence of her family. She died on Day 3 and was referred to the Coroner for further investigation.

What is the rationale for measuring ICP in acute liver failure?

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Transplantation After Brainstem Death

A 38-year-old previously fit man suffered a grade five subarachnoid haemorrhage. Attempts at coiling failed and he suffered a catastrophic rebleed on-table whereupon his pupils became fixed and dilated. After a suitable sedation washout period he underwent testing which confirmed brainstem death at which point he was referred to the specialist nurse for organ donation. Following counselling of the family and appropriate assessment, donation of his kidneys, liver and heart was agreed.

Upon confirmation of brainstem death, mechanical ventilation was continued to ensure PaO2 greater than 10 kPa and limit peak inflation pressure to less than 30 cmH20. Vasoactive support was switched from noradrenaline to vasopressin 0.02 iu/kg/min. Methylprednisolone and intravenous triiodothyronine were administered whilst awaiting harvest. Blood antibody testing for HIV1+2, Hepatitis B and C, HTLV-1 and CMV IgG were all negative. A transthoracic echocardiogram confirmed good biventricular function; following discussion with the transplant retrieval team a pulmonary artery catheter was floated. Clinical measurements of cardiac output and mixed venous oxygen saturation were satisfactory. Adequate hydration was maintained with crystalloid by infusion and glucose control optimised in the range 8-10 mmol/L with insulin. The dedicated retrieval team performed the organ retrieval eighteen hours after confirmation of brainstem death.

How can we optimise organ function for organ donation?Read More »

Management of Variceal Haemorrhage

A 60-year-old alcoholic was admitted with large-volume, frank haematemesis. On presentation he was hypotensive, tachycardic and obtunded with multiple stigmata of chronic liver disease including a moderate volume of ascites and palpable splenomegaly. Initial phlebotomy revealed a haemoglobin of 6.4 g/dL, INR of 4.5 and bilirubin of 54 μmol/L. Arterial blood gas analysis demonstrated a significant metabolic acidosis and lactate of 11 mmol/L. Large bore intravenous access was established and administration of crystalloid initiated, targeting a systolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg. Urgent cross-match of 10 units of packed red blood cells, clotting products and platelets was requested and the patient was transferred to theatre where upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopy was performed under general anaesthesia. This demonstrated three columns of varices involving the gastro-oesophageal junction. Attempts at banding and injection of sclerosant met with variable success. A Senstaken-Blakemore tube was inserted due to incomplete haemostasis and further attempts at endoscopic therapy abandoned.

The patient was transferred to intensive care. Intravenous cefotaxime and terlipressin were commenced. Further transfusion of clotting products continued as guided by thromboelastography with some slowing of transfusion but red cell requirements persisted at a rate of 1-2 units of blood per hour. At 12 hours, repeat endoscopy was performed – further attempts at sclerotherapy were unsuccessful and transjugular intrahepatic porto-systemic shunting was performed by the interventional radiology team. Upon return to intensive care, a significant reduction in bleeding was noted and both haemodynamic indices and coagulopathy improved over the following 12 hours. A repeat endoscopy demonstrated no evidence of active ongoing bleeding. At this point sedation was stopped; some encephalopathy was evident although this improved in the following 24 hours. Extubation occurred on day 3 after admission and he was discharged to the high-dependency unit at day 5 without significant ongoing acute issues.

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Scoring Systems for Acute Hepatic Dysfunction

Scoring Systems for Acute Hepatic Dysfunction

A 40 year old was admitted to hospital with his first presentation of alcoholic liver disease with symptoms of jaundice (bilirubin 248), poor mobility, hallucinations and passing of black stool. On admission to hospital, he was lethargic with features of Grade II encephalopathy, was coagulopathic (INR 3.1), had deranged electrolytes (sodium 114, potassium 2.9), but a normal creatinine (54) and a raised white cell count (15.9). He was haemodynamically stable and had a haemoglobin of 119g/L with no signs of active bleeding. His abdomen was distended (ascites), he was visibly jaundiced and had spider naevi on his chest. An abdominal ultrasound was performed that showed liver cirrhosis, borderline splenomegaly, small volume ascites and normal kidneys. A full liver screen revealed no infective cause and his AST:ALT ratio suggested alcoholic liver disease. His prognostic indicator scores were all suggestive of severe alcoholic liver hepatitis (Maddrey score: 131; Childs: C; Lille Score: 1; GAHS: 10; MELD: 29). His serum ammonia level was 170. He was commenced on terlipressin, prednisolone and pentoxyphylline and thiamine. Despite this, his encephalopathy progressed to grade 4 and he required intubation and ventilation for airway protection and a presumed aspiration pneumonia. His liver function and coagulopathy continued to worsen, and he developed an acute kidney injury necessitating commencement of renal replacement therapy. He required noradrenaline to support his blood pressure. Ascitic tap ruled out spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. He was discussed with regional liver centres, but was not felt to be a transplant candidate. His liver and renal function continued to deteriorate and eventually treatment was withdrawn nearly 3 weeks into his admission.

Describe the scoring systems for assessing the severity of acute hepatic dysfunction.

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Hepatorenal Syndrome

Hepatorenal Syndrome

A 54 year old man with a history of alcohol excess was admitted under the medical team with an upper gastro-intestinal bleed. He had a background of pulmonary fibrosis that limited his exercise tolerance to 30 yards. Antibiotics, terlipressin and fluid resuscitation, including blood, were given. An oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy demonstrated severe portal gastropathy but no active bleeding or varices. An abdominal ultrasound demonstrated cirrhosis and some moderate ascites. On day two of the patient’s hospital admission he was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with respiratory failure and non-invasive ventilation was started. Over the next few days his condition deteriorated and he required vasopressor support. By day 6 the patient was oliguric, and his creatinine had risen from 102 to 155 µmoles/l.

What is the cause for his acute kidney injury? Could it be hepatorenal syndrome? Read More »

Pentoxifylline in Alcoholic Hepatitis

Pentoxifylline in Alcoholic Hepatitis

A 28 year old male presented to the Emergency Department with an upper gastrointestinal bleed. This was managed  with resuscitation and endoscopic diathermy and adrenaline injection This was his first presentation to secondary care with complications from his significant alcohol intake. He reported drinking at least 50 units of alcohol per week. Ultrasound examination demonstrated an enlarged liver with changes consistent with steatosis. On day 3 of his admission, he became tachycardic, tachypnoeic and increasingly lethargic. Examination revealed jaundice, bi-basal lung crepitations and mild confusion. Investigation confirmed an acute hepatitis by blood chemistry and repeat ultrasound. In the absence of any other cause, a diagnosis of acute alcoholic hepatitis was considered.

In patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis, does pentoxifylline reduce mortality?Read More »

Hepatic Encephalopathy in Acute Liver Failure

Management of Hepatic Encephalopathy in Acute Liver Failure

A 30 year old woman with a background of substance abuse and deliberate self harm was found collapsed and semi-conscious following an overdose of co-codamol and was presenting late. It was possible that she had taken around 100g paracetamol. Her GCS was 11, and she had grade II/III hepatic encephalopathy. Her bilirubin was 60 and she had significant transaminitis with a lactic acidosis. . She was commenced on N-acetylcysteine despite undetectable paracetamol levels. Liver US was normal. Early repeat bloods showed worsening jaundice, transaminitis and rising INR. She was transferred to the regional liver unit initially for monitoring, but was subsequently admitted to the liver HDU. She did not require a liver transplant and recovered with conservative management.

What is the optimum management of hepatic encephalopathy in acute liver failure?Read More »