Grand Rounds: Alcoholic Hepatitis

Ashwani K. Singal, Alexandre Louvet, Vijay H. Shah, Patrick S. Kamath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


A 33-year-old Caucasian male was admitted to hospital with recent onset of jaundice of 2–3 weeks duration. He reported heavy use of alcohol for the last 10 years with the last drink a day prior to the onset of symptoms. At admission, he was alert and oriented to time, place, and person, and was deeply jaundiced. His laboratory profile can be summarised as follows: haemoglobin 12.1 g/dl, white blood cell count 18,700 with 81% neutrophils, serum bilirubin 33 (direct 22) mg/dl, aspartate aminotransferase 147 IU/L, alanine aminotransferase 62 IU/L, alkaline phosphatase 117 IU/L, serum albumin 2.8 gm/dl, serum creatinine 0.6 mg/dl, prothrombin time 18.3 (control 14.5) seconds, and international normalized ratio 1.48. He was diagnosed with severe alcoholic hepatitis (Maddrey discriminant function score of 50) and treated with prednisolone for 28 days with symptomatic and biochemical improvement. His Lille score at seven days was 0.4, and his serum bilirubin had decreased to 3.5 mg/dl at the end of treatment. He was also seen by the addiction team during hospitalisation; he agreed to follow through on recommendations. He was dismissed after completing a three-week inpatient rehabilitation programme but relapsed to alcohol use three months later, and was readmitted with alcohol withdrawal. He was readmitted two months later (about six months from the first episode) for a second episode of severe alcoholic hepatitis. At admission, his model for end-stage liver disease score was 32 and he was treated again with corticosteroids. His Lille score at seven days was 0.6 and steroids were discontinued. The hospital course was complicated by spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and pneumonia with development of acute kidney injury. He continued to worsen, developing multiorgan failure. After a course of one month, the family's preference was for him to receive comfort measures. This scenario raises several questions: I. Should liver biopsy have been carried out in this patient before starting treatment for alcoholic hepatitis?II. What should the protocol be for early diagnosis of infection?III. Are there options other than steroid therapy for severe alcoholic hepatitis? Should pharmacological therapy have been initiated to prevent alcohol relapse?IV. What are the determinants of short-term and long-term prognosis in alcoholic hepatitis?V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-543
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of hepatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Corticosteroids
  • Liver biopsy
  • Liver transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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