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1.  A capillary blood ammonia bedside test following glutamine load to improve the diagnosis of hepatic encephalopathy in cirrhosis 
BMC Gastroenterology  2011;11:134.
Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a frequent and severe complication of cirrhosis. A single determination of ammonia in venous blood correlates poorly with neurological symptoms. Thus, a better biological marker is needed.
To make a diagnosis of HE, we explored the value of ammonia in capillary blood, an equivalent to arterial blood, measured at bedside following an oral glutamine challenge.
We included 57 patients (age 56 yrs; M/F: 37/20) with cirrhosis (alcoholic = 42; MELD score 13.8 [7-29], esophageal varices = 38) and previous episodes of HE (n = 19), but without neurological deficits at time of examination, and 13 healthy controls (age 54 yrs). After psychometric tests and capillary (ear lobe) blood ammonia measurements, 20 gr of glutamine was administered orally. Tests were repeated at 60 minutes (+ blood ammonia at 30'). Minimal HE was diagnosed if values were > 1.5 SD in at least 2 psychometric tests. Follow-up lasted 12 months.
The test was well tolerated (nausea = 1; dizziness = 1). Patients showed higher values of capillary blood ammonia over time as compared to controls (0'-30'-60 minutes: 75, 117, 169 versus 52, 59, 78 umol/L, p < 0.05). At baseline, 25 patients (44%) had minimal HE, while 38 patients (67%) met the criteria for HE at 60 minutes (chi2: p < 0.01). For the diagnosis of minimal HE, using the ROC curve analysis, baseline capillary blood ammonia showed an AUC of 0.541 (CI: 0.38-0.7, p = 0.6), while at 60 minutes the AUC was 0.727 (CI: 0.58-0.87, p < 0.006). During follow-up, 18 patients (31%) developed clinical episodes of HE. At multivariate analysis, the MELD score (1.12 [1.018-1.236]), previous episodes of HE (3.2[1.069-9.58]), but not capillary blood ammonia, were independent predictors of event.
In patients with cirrhosis and normal neurological examination, bedside determination of ammonia in capillary blood following oral glutamine load is well tolerated and achieves a better diagnostic performance for minimal HE than basal capillary ammonia levels. However, capillary blood ammonia is a poor predictor of development of clinically overt HE.
PMCID: PMC3253684  PMID: 22151412
2.  Early liver biopsy, intraparenchymal cholestasis, and prognosis in patients with alcoholic steatohepatitis 
BMC Gastroenterology  2011;11:115.
Alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH) is a serious complication of alcoholic liver disease. The diagnosis of ASH requires the association of steatosis, evidence of hepatocellular injury with ballooning degeneration, and polynuclear neutrophil infiltration on liver biopsy. Whether these lesions, in addition to other histological features observed in liver tissue specimens, have prognostic significance is unclear.
We studied 163 patients (age 55 yrs [35-78], male/female 102/61) with recent, heavy (> 80 gr/day) alcohol intake, histologically-proven ASH (97% with underlying cirrhosis, Maddrey's score 39 [13-200], no sepsis), who had a liver biopsy performed 3 days [0-10] after hospital admission for clinical decompensation. A semi-quantitative evaluation of steatosis, hepatocellular damage, neutrophilic infiltration, periportal ductular reaction, intraparenchymal cholestasis, and iron deposits was performed by two pathologists. All patients with a Maddrey's score ≥ 32 received steroids. The outcome at 3 months was determined. Statistical analysis was performed using the Wilcoxon and Fisher's exact tests, Kaplan-Meier method, and the Cox proportional hazard model.
43 patients died after 31 days [5-85] following biopsy. The 3-month survival rate was 74%. Mean kappa value for histological assessment by the two pathologists was excellent (0.92). Univariate analysis identified age, the Maddrey's score, the Pugh's score, the MELD score and parenchymal cholestasis, but not other histological features, as factors associated with 3-month mortality. At multivariate analysis, age (p = 0.029, OR 2.83 [1.11-7.2], intraparenchymal cholestasis (p = 0.001, OR 3.9 [1.96-7.8], and the Maddrey's score (p = 0.027, OR 3.93 [1.17-13.23] were independent predictors of outcome. Intraparenchymal cholestasis was more frequent in non survivors compared to survivors (70% versus 25%, p < 0.001). Serum bilirubin was higher in patients with severe compared to those with no or mild intraparenchymal cholestasis (238 [27-636] versus 69 [22-640] umol/l, p < 0.001).
In this large cohort of patients with histologically documented ASH early after admission and no sepsis, liver biopsy identified marked intraparenchymal cholestasis as an independent predictor of poor short term outcome together with age and the Maddrey's score. It may be hypothesized that incorporation of this particular variable into existing disease severity scores for ASH would improve their performance.
PMCID: PMC3228746  PMID: 22035247
3.  Hyperimmune anti-HBs plasma as alternative to commercial immunoglobulins for prevention of HBV recurrence after liver transplantation 
BMC Gastroenterology  2010;10:71.
Hepatitis B immune globulins (HBIG) in combination with nucleos(t)ide analogues (NA) are effectively used for the prevention of hepatitis B virus (HBV) recurrence after liver transplantation (LT). However, associated treatment costs for HBIG are exceedingly high.
Fresh frozen plasma obtained from blood donors with high anti-HBs levels (hyperimmune plasma, HIP) containing at least 4,500 IU anti-HBs was used as alternative treatment for HBV recurrence prophylaxis post-LT.
Twenty-one HBV-related LT recipients received HIP starting at transplantation, followed by long-term combination treatment with NA. Mean follow-up time was 4.5 years (range 0.5-12.6) and each patient received on average 8.2 HIP per year (range 5.8-11.4). Anti-HBs terminal elimination kinetic after HIP administration was 20.6 days (range 13.8-30.9), which is comparable to values reported for commercial HBIG products. All 21 patients remained free of HBV recurrence during follow-up and no transfusion-transmitted infection or other serious complication was observed. Seven patients developed reversible mild transfusion reactions. The cost for one HIP unit was US$140; average yearly HBIG treatment cost was US$1,148 per patient, as compared to US$25,000-100,000 for treatment with commercial HBIG.
The results of this study suggest that the use of HIP may be a useful and economical approach for the prevention of HBV recurrence post-LT if used in combination with NA. Additional prospective controlled studies in larger populations are needed to confirm these results.
PMCID: PMC2912239  PMID: 20598161
4.  Anticoagulant therapy for nodular regenerative hyperplasia in a HIV-infected patient 
BMC Gastroenterology  2010;10:6.
Nodular regenerative hyperplasia (NRH) has been recently recognized as an emergent cause of liver disease in HIV-infected patients. NRH may cause non-cirrhotic portal hypertension with potentially severe consequences such as refractory ascites, variceal bleeding and hypersplenism. Obliteration of the small intrahepatic portal veins in association with prothrombotic disorders linked to HIV infection itself or anti-retroviral therapy seem to be the causes of NRH and thus the term HIV-associated obliterative portopathy has been proposed.
Case Presentation
Here we describe a case of a HIV-infected patient with biopsy-proven NRH and listed for liver transplantation (LT) because of refractory ascites and repeated upper gastrointestinal bleedings. A transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt was placed as a bridge to LT and did not improve liver function. However, anticoagulant therapy with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) was associated with rapid improvement in the liver condition and allowed to avoid LT in this patient.
Thus, this case underscores the relation between thrombophilia and HIV-associated NRH and emphasizes anticoagulant therapy as possible treatment.
PMCID: PMC2836274  PMID: 20082713
5.  Combined written and oral information prior to gastrointestinal endoscopy compared with oral information alone: a randomized trial 
BMC Gastroenterology  2008;8:22.
Little is known about how to most effectively deliver relevant information to patients scheduled for endoscopy.
To assess the effects of combined written and oral information, compared with oral information alone on the quality of information before endoscopy and the level of anxiety. We designed a prospective study in two Swiss teaching hospitals which enrolled consecutive patients scheduled for endoscopy over a three-month period. Patients were randomized either to receiving, along with the appointment notice, an explanatory leaflet about the upcoming examination, or to oral information delivered by each patient's doctor. Evaluation of quality of information was rated on scales between 0 (none received) and 5 (excellent). The analysis of outcome variables was performed on the basis of intention to treat-analysis. Multivariate analysis of predictors of information scores was performed by linear regression analysis.
Of 718 eligible patients 577 (80%) returned their questionnaire. Patients who received written leaflets (N = 278) rated the quality of information they received higher than those informed verbally (N = 299), for all 8 quality-of-information items. Differences were significant regarding information about the risks of the procedure (3.24 versus 2.26, p < 0.001), how to prepare for the procedure (3.56 versus 3.23, p = 0.036), what to expect after the procedure (2.99 versus 2.59, p < 0.001), and the 8 quality-of-information items (3.35 versus 3.02, p = 0.002). The two groups reported similar levels of anxiety before procedure (p = 0.66), pain during procedure (p = 0.20), tolerability throughout the procedure (p = 0.76), problems after the procedure (p = 0.22), and overall rating of the procedure between poor and excellent (p = 0.82).
Written information led to more favourable assessments of the quality of information and had no impact on patient anxiety nor on the overall assessment of the endoscopy. Because structured and comprehensive written information is perceived as beneficial by patients, gastroenterologists should clearly explain to their patients the risks, benefits and alternatives of endoscopic procedures. Trial registration: Current Controlled trial number: ISRCTN34382782.
PMCID: PMC2430967  PMID: 18522729

Results 1-5 (5)