Diagnosis and Treatment of Alcoholic Hepatitis: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Alcoholic hepatitis (AH) occurs in about one-third of individuals reporting long-term heavy alcohol use. It is associated with high short-term mortality, economic burden, and hospital resources utilization. We performed this systematic review to (i) describe clinical characteristics and genomics associated with the risk of AH; (ii) discuss role and limitations of liver biopsy and prognostic scoring systems; (iii) summarize evidence regarding the currently available therapies including liver transplantation; and (iv) outline emerging therapies with areas of unmet need. Literature search was performed for studies published in English language (January 1971 through March 2016). The following search engines were used: PubMed, Elsevier Embase, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library. For the treatment section, only randomized controlled studies were included for this review. A total of 138 studies (59 randomized, 22 systematic reviews or meta-analyses, 7 surveys or guidelines, 7 population-based, and 43 prospective cohorts) were cited. There are over 325,000 annual admissions with AH contributing to about 0.8% of all hospitalizations in the United States. Liver biopsy may be required in about 25 to 30% cases for uncertain clinical diagnosis. Corticosteroids with or without N-acetylcysteine remains the only available therapy for severe episodes. Data are emerging on the role of liver transplantation as salvage therapy for select patients. Abstinence remains the most important factor impacting long-term prognosis. Results from the ongoing clinical trials within the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-funded consortia are awaited for more effective and safer therapies. AH is a potentially lethal condition with a significant short-term mortality. A high index of suspicion is required. There remains an unmet need for noninvasive biomarkers for the diagnosis, and predicting prognosis and response to therapy.

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