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Ren Fail. 2014 Jul;36(6):889-94. doi: 10.3109/0886022X.2014.894765. Epub 2014 Mar 6.

Bicarbonate can improve the prognostic value of the MELD score for critically ill patients with cirrhosis.

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Division of Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, Mackay Memorial Hospital , Taipei , Taiwan .


The prognosis of critically ill patients with cirrhosis is poor. Our aim was to identify an objective variable that can improve the prognostic value of the Model of End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score in patients who have cirrhosis and are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). This retrospective cohort study included 177 patients who had liver cirrhosis and were admitted to the ICU. Data pertaining to arterial blood gas-related parameters and other variables were obtained on the day of ICU admission. The overall ICU mortality rate was 36.2%. The bicarbonate (HCO3) level was found to be an independent predictor of ICU mortality (odds ratio, 2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-4.8; p = 0.038). A new equation was constructed (MELD-Bicarbonate) by replacing total bilirubin by HCO3 in the original MELD score. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for predicting ICU mortality was 0.76 (95% CI, 0.69-0.84) for the MELD-Bicarbonate equation, 0.73 (95% CI, 0.65-0.81) for the MELD score, and 0.71 (95% CI, 0.63-0.80) for the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score. Bicarbonate level assessment, as an objective and reproducible laboratory test, has significant predictive value in critically ill patients with cirrhosis. In contrast, the predictive value of total bilirubin is not as prominent in this setting. The MELD-Bicarbonate equation, which included three variables (international normalized ratio, creatinine level, and HCO3 level), showed better prognostic value than the original MELD score in critically ill patients with cirrhosis.


Acidosis; MELD; bicarbonate; intensive care unit; liver cirrhosis

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