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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.  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
4.  Phlegmonous colitis: another source of sepsis in cirrhotic patients? 
BMC Gastroenterology  2009;9:94.
The clinical relevance of phlegmonous colitis (PC), a rare autopsy finding in cirrhotic patients, is poorly documented. We postulated that PC might be a source of sepsis in patients with portal hypertensive colopathy (PHC).
Case presentation
We report three cirrhotic patients who were admitted with abdominal sepsis and who illustrate, to various degrees, the clinico-pathological sequence of colonic alterations associated with portal hypertension. Two cirrhotic patients with PHC developed gram-negative bacteraemia and quickly responded to intravenous antibiotics. Another cirrhotic patient underwent emergency colectomy for PC, and subsequently died from multiple organ failure. Histological alterations in the operative specimen included: a) mucosal ulcerations; b) disseminated micro-abscesses in the submucosa; and c) a severe vasculopathy leading to complete obliteration of submucosal blood vessels.
These data suggest that cirrhotic patients with PHC may progress towards PC, which, in turn, may be the cause for life-threatening sepsis.
PMCID: PMC2800109  PMID: 20003486
5.  Acute partial Budd-Chiari syndrome and portal vein thrombosis in cytomegalovirus primary infection: a case report 
BMC Gastroenterology  2006;6:10.
Splanchnic vein thrombosis may complicate inherited thrombotic disorders. Acute cytomegalovirus infection is a rare cause of acquired venous thrombosis in the portal or mesenteric territory, but has never been described extending into a main hepatic vein.
Case presentation
A 36-year-old immunocompetent woman presented with acute primary cytomegalovirus infection in association with extensive thrombosis in the portal and splenic vein. In addition, a fresh thrombus was evident in the right hepatic vein. A thorough evaluation for a hypercoagulable state was negative. The clinical course, biological evolution, radiological and histological findings were consistent with cytomegalovirus hepatitis complicated by a partial acute Budd-Chiari syndrome and portal thrombosis. Therapeutic anticoagulation was associated with a slow clinical improvement and partial vascular recanalization.
We described in details a new association between cytomegalovirus infection and acute venous thrombosis both in the portal vein and in the right hepatic vein, realizing a partial Budd-Chiari syndrome. One should be aware that this rare thrombotic event may be complicated by partial venous outflow block.
PMCID: PMC1421416  PMID: 16529659

Results 1-5 (5)