Exercise as an intervention for patients with end-stage liver disease: Systematic review

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Various etiologies of chronic liver disease often result in cirrhosis. Beside obvious liver-related complications, cirrhosis also leads to loss of muscle mass and decreased exercise capacity. In this study, our aim was to conduct a systematic review of literature to investigate the efficacy of exercise interventions in patients with cirrhosis.


PubMed was used to perform the literature search. The mesh terms used were the following: (liver (and) cirrhosis (and) exercise or (exercise therapy)). The following terms were excluded: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The search was limited to the English language and human research. The initial search was conducted on December 6, 2016 and re-reviewed May 2017.


Seven studies met selection criteria. Training interventions ranged between 4 and 14 weeks in duration with an exercise frequency of 3 to 5 days per week. Most studies demonstrated an increase in maximal oxygen consumption using gas exchange techniques. Two of 3 studies demonstrated increased distance covered in the 6-minute walk test. One study showed a clinically significant decrease in hepatic venous pressure gradient, while another showed a transient increase only during exercise. There were no adverse effects of the exercise program reported.


Exercise in selected patients with cirrhosis can have potential benefit in endurance and functional outcome measures without adverse effect from exercise.

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