Treatment of Severe Alcoholic Hepatitis With Corticosteroid, Pentoxifylline, or Dual Therapy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

Background and Aims:

Although both corticosteroids and pentoxifylline are currently recommended drugs for the treatment of patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis, their effectiveness in reducing mortality remains unclear. In this systematic review, we aimed to evaluate the therapeutic and adverse effects of corticosteroids, pentoxifylline, and combination by using Cochrane methodology and therefore determine optimal treatment for severe alcoholic hepatitis.

Methods:

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from their inauguration until October 2015. Combinations of the following keywords and controlled vocabularies were searched: alcoholic hepatitis, corticosteroid, and pentoxifylline.

Results:

A total of 2639 patients from 25 studies were included. The treatment groups did not differ significantly in terms of overall mortality. Analysis of 1-month mortality revealed corticosteroid monotherapy reduced mortality compared with placebo (OR=0.58; 95% CI, 0.34-0.98; P=0.04), but pentoxifylline monotherapy did not. The mortality with dual therapy was similar to corticosteroid monotherapy (OR=0.91; 95% CI, 0.62-1.34; P=0.63). However, dual therapy decreased the incidences of hepatorenal syndrome or acute kidney injury (OR=0.47; 95% CI, 0.26-0.86; P=0.01) and the infection risk (OR=0.63; 95% CI, 0.41-0.97; P=0.04) significantly more than corticosteroid monotherapy did. None of the treatments conferred any medium-term or long-term survival benefits in the present study.

Conclusions:

Dual therapy was not inferior to corticosteroid monotherapy and could reduce the incidence of hepatorenal syndrome or acute kidney injury and risk of infection. Therefore, dual therapy might be considered in treatment of patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis.

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