ABSTAINING from alcohol can benefit individuals with advanced liver cirrhosis, according to researchers from Department of Internal Medicine III at MedUni Vienna, and Vienna General Hospital (AKH Vienna), Austria.
Pronounced scarring of the liver, or liver cirrhosis, is the most common and severe complication of excessive alcohol consumption. While complete abstinence from alcohol is the foundation for treatment of patients with alcohol-related liver disease, there has not been enough research to determine whether this can improve the prognosis of patients with advanced liver cirrhosis.
However, researchers at MedUni and AKH Vienna have investigated alcohol abstinence in 320 patients with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, and have provided evidence that alcohol abstinence does have positive effects, even in very advanced stages of the disease. The researchers also investigated the effect of portal hypertension, which refers to the increased blood pressure in the veins transporting blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver, and is also responsible for the progression of liver disease.
Benedikt Hofer from the Clinical Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine III, MedUni Vienna and AKH Vienna, and lead author of the study, stated: “Our results clearly show that all patients with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis who maintain sustained abstinence from alcohol not only suffer complications of liver cirrhosis significantly less frequently, but also live considerably longer, even in the case of pronounced portal hypertension.”
However, researchers stressed the importance of regular medical check-ups, as the study indicated that even patients with sustained abstinence from alcohol are still at risk of complications. If the extent of portal hypertension, for example, remains pronounced, the patient is at risk of complications.
Thomas Reiberger, also from the Clinical Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine III, at MedUni Vienna and AKH Vienna, said: “Our new data provide important evidence for the daily counselling of our patients and show that it is never too late to strive for complete abstinence from alcohol.”
Finally, the examination of hepatic vein measure gradient is considered the gold standard for evaluating the extent of portal hypertension, and provides important prognostic information for patients with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, regardless of the patient’s alcohol consumption. As a result, physicians can produce optimised and personalised treatment options for patients.