Ischemic hepatitis, a relatively infrequent disorder occurring in 0.16% to 0.50% of patients admitted to medical intensive care units, often follows episodes of hypotension or acute heart failure. Investigating the clinical characteristics of patients with ischemic hepatitis may add to our understanding of the pathogenesis and significance of this syndrome. We therefore conducted a retrospective analysis of 34 patients to examine the possible contribution of the various baseline characteristics to the severity of the hepatic damage.
In all patients liver disease was unexpected and in some, liver dysfunction dominated the clinical picture. All patients had high serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) and lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) levels (mean ± SE, 2073 ± 255 international units and 6085 ± 748 international units, respectively). The mean SGPT/LDH ratio was 0.34. Most patients had coagulopathy with a prolonged prothrombin time (mean ± SE, 5.86 ± 1.37 international normalized ratio [INR]). The most common diagnosis on admission was respiratory distress secondary to various causes. Before the development of the hepatic dysfunction, respiratory failure and hypoxemia were observed in 68% of the patients, whereas hypotension was observed in only 38%. More than 90% of the patients had three or more associated comorbid conditions. The most frequent of these were left heart failure (88.2%), right heart failure (67.6%), chronic obstructive lung disease (58.8%), and chronic renal failure (55.9%). During the acute episode, more than 90% of the patients had transient deterioration of their renal functions. Hypoglycemia was noted in 11 patients (32.4%), and the glucose level was inversely correlated with the SGPT level (r = −0.43, p = 0.01). Stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that left heart failure, systolic blood pressure lower than 90 mm Hg, and female gender, together, accounted for 34% of the variance of the peak SGPT levels (p = 0.002). Fourteen (41.2%) patients died during the 3-month follow-up period, but none from the hepatic injury. None of the clinical or laboratory parameters measured predicted mortality.
Clearly, ischemic hepatitis is associated with a high risk of death. The characteristic patients are those with multiple underlying systemic diseases and conditions, especially those with left heart failure. Liver function test results and levels of liver enzymes should be monitored in these patients, particularly when they are admitted for respiratory deterioration and episodes of hypotension.