Bacterial infections in patients with liver cirrhosis

Giacomo Zaccherini, Vittoria Bevilacqua, Barbara Benazzi, Lucia Santi, Paolo Caraceni, Mauro Bernardi

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7175/rhc.v2i3.29

Abstract

Bacterial infections represent a frequent complication of liver cirrhosis carrying a significantly greater risk of morbidity and mortality as compared to that observed in non-cirrhotic patients. Such unfavourable prognosis is related to the systemic complications (liver and renal failure, shock, coagulopathy, multiple organ failure) induced by a series of pro-inflammatory and immunological systems which are activated by bacteria and their pathogenetic products.

The epidemiology of bacterial infections in cirrhosis has changed in the last years with a marked increase of Gram+ infections and the emergence of multi-resistant bacteria.

The severity of liver disease represents the major clinical factor predisposing to bacterial infections, which are asymptomatic or paucisymptomatic at presentation in almost half of the cases. Aim of this review is to summarise the clinical and therapeutic aspects of bacterial infections in cirrhotic patients. The most common sites of infection are the urinary tract, ascites, blood, lungs and soft tissues.

Beside antibiotics, it has been proposed the administration of human albumin to prevent the development of renal failure in patients with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and, more recently, the use of hydrocortisone to treat cirrhotic patients with septic shock.

Keywords

Liver cirrhosis; Bacterial infections; Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis; Antibiotic-resistance

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