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Curr Drug Saf. 2011 Sep 1;6(4):267-74.

The use of human albumin for the treatment of ascites in patients with liver cirrhosis: item of safety, facts, controversies and perspectives.

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Department of Medical Sciences, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Foggia, Italy.


Albumin constitutes approximately one half of the proteins in the plasma and plays a pivotal role in modulating the distribution of fluid between body compartments. Hence it is commonly employed in cirrhotic patients in association with diuretics for the treatment of ascites. Nevertheless, its usefulness is controversial in this condition and well-stated only in some circumstances. The item of safety of the drug appears to be convincing due to the accurate cautions in the course of its preparation. Side effects are described in literature only as sporadic events. Indeed, albumin administration is effective to prevent the circulatory dysfunctions after large-volume paracentesis and renal failure and after Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis (SBP). Finally albumin represents, associated with vasoconstrictors, the therapeutic gold standard for the hepatorenal-syndrome (HRS). Physiopathological bases of the therapeutic use of albumin in hepatic cirrhosis consist in both hypoalbuminemia and portal hypertension consequences. In fact, cirrhotic patient with ascites, in spite of hydrosaline retention, shows an effective hypovolemia with peripheral arterial vasodilatation and increase in heart rate. Therefore the effectiveness of albumin administration in the treatment of ascites is due to its plasma volume expander property as well as its efficacy in restoring plasmatic oncotic pressure. Trials are in progress in order to define the effectiveness of the prolonged home-administration of human albumin in the treatment and prevention of ascites. Finally, it has been recently demonstrated that the binding, transport and detoxification capacities of human albumin are severely reduced in cirrhotics and this impairment correlates with the degree of liver failure. Therefore, the next challenge will be to determine whether the alterations of non-oncotic properties of albumin are able to forecast mortality in cirrhotics with ascites and exogenous albumin chronic administration will be effective in predicting and preventing such alterations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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