AGA Clinical Practice Update on the Evaluation and Management of Acute Kidney Injury in Patients With Cirrhosis: Expert Review

Steven L. Flamm, Florence Wong, Joseph Ahn, Patrick S. Kamath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Description: The purpose of this American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute Clinical Practice Update is to review the available published evidence and expert advice regarding the clinical management of patients with suspected acute kidney injury in patients with cirrhosis. Methods: This article provides practical advice for the management of patients with cirrhosis and acute kidney injury based on the best available published evidence. This best practice document is not based on a formal systematic review. This expert review was commissioned and approved by the AGA Institute Clinical Practice Updates Committee and the AGA Governing Board to provide timely guidance on a topic of high clinical importance to the AGA membership and underwent internal peer review by the Clinical Practice Updates Committee and external peer review through the standard procedures of Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology. These Best Practice Advice (BPA) statements were drawn from a review of the published literature and from expert opinion. Since systematic reviews were not performed, these BPA statements do not carry formal ratings of the quality of evidence or strength of the presented considerations. BEST PRACTICE ADVICE 1: Acute kidney injury (AKI) should be diagnosed when the serum creatinine increases by ≥0.3 mg/dL within 48 hours or is ≥50% from baseline or when the urine output is reduced below 0.5 mL/kg/h for >6 hours. Best Practice Advice 2: Preventive measures against the development of AKI in cirrhosis include (1) avoidance of potentially nephrotoxic medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), (2) avoidance of excessive or unmonitored diuretics or nonselective beta-blockade, (3) avoidance of large-volume paracentesis without albumin replacement, and (4) counseling patients to avoid alcohol use. Best Practice Advice 3: (A) Investigation is directed to determining the cause of AKI, which can be due to hypovolemic causes (volume responsive, and the most common cause of AKI in patients with cirrhosis); acute tubular necrosis; hepatorenal syndrome with AKI (HRS-AKI) (a functional renal failure that persists despite volume repletion); HRS with acute kidney disease, a type of functional renal failure of <3 months– duration in which criteria for HRS-AKI are not met; or postrenal, which occurs only rarely. (B) The specific type of AKI should be identified through a careful history, physical examination, blood biochemistry, urine microscopic examination, urine chemistry (Na+ and urea) and selected urinary biomarkers, and renal ultrasound. Best Practice Advice 4: A rigorous search for infection is required in all patients with AKI. A diagnostic paracentesis should be carried out to evaluate for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis; blood and urine cultures and chest radiograph are also required. There is no role for routine prophylactic antibiotics in patients with AKI, but broad-spectrum antibiotics should be started whenever infection is strongly suspected. Best Practice Advice 5: When AKI is diagnosed, diuretics and nonselective beta-blockers should be held, NSAIDs discontinued, the precipitating cause of AKI treated, and fluid losses replaced, administering albumin 1 g/kg/d for 2 days if the serum creatinine shows doubling from baseline. Urine output, vital signs, and when indicated, echocardiography or CVP (if there is a pre-existing central line) should be used to monitor fluid status. Best Practice Advice 6: When the serum creatinine remains higher than twice the baseline value despite these measures, treatment of HRS-AKI should be initiated with albumin at a dose of 1 g/kg intravenously on day 1 followed by 20–40 g daily along with vasoactive agents (terlipressin; if terlipressin is not available, either a combination of octreotide and midodrine; or norepinephrine, depending on institutional preferences) and continued either until 24 hours following the return of the serum creatinine level to within ≤0.3 mg/dL of baseline for 2 consecutive days or for a total of 14 days of therapy. Best Practice Advice 7: Terlipressin should be initiated as a bolus dose of 1 mg every 4–6 hours (total 4–6 mg/d). The dose should be increased to a maximum of 2 mg every 4–6 hours (total 8–12 mg/d) if there is no reduction in serum creatinine at day 3 of therapy by at least 25% compared to the baseline value. Alternatively, clinicians can administer terlipressin by continuous intravenous infusion at a lower starting dose of 2 mg/d, which may reduce ischemic side effects and increase the dose gradually every 24–48 hours up to a maximum dose of 12 mg/d, or reversal of HRS. As per Food and Drug Administration restrictions, terlipressin should not be used in patients with a serum creatinine ≥5 mg/dL, or oxygen saturation of <90%. Best Practice Advice 8: Oral midodrine when used should be initiated at doses of 7.5 mg and titrated upward to 12.5 mg 3 times daily with octreotide (starting with 100 μg and titrating upward to 200 μg subcutaneously 3 times daily). Best Practice Advice 9: Norepinephrine should be used as a continuous intravenous infusion at a starting dose of 0.5 mg/h and the dose increased every 4 hours by 0.5 mg/h to a maximum of 3 mg/h with the goal of increasing the mean arterial pressure by ≥10 mm Hg and/or the urine output to >50 mL/h for at least 4 hours. Best Practice Advice 10: The risks of ischemic side effects of terlipressin and norepinephrine include angina and ischemia of fingers, skin, and intestine. These side effects may be lowered by starting at the lowest dose and gradually titrating upward. Best Practice Advice 11: Fluid status should be closely monitored because of the risk of pulmonary edema with excessive use of albumin. Best Practice Advice 12: Renal replacement therapy (RRT) may be used in the management of (A) AKI secondary to acute tubular necrosis; (B) HRS-AKI in potential candidates for liver transplantation (that is, RRT should not be used in patients with HRS-AKI who are not candidates for liver transplantation); and (C) AKI of uncertain etiology in which the need for RRT may be considered on an individual basis. Best Practice Advice 13: Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts should not be used as a specific treatment of HRS-AKI. Best Practice Advice 14: Liver transplantation is the most effective treatment for HRS-AKI. Pharmacotherapy for HRS-AKI before proceeding with liver transplantation may be associated with better post-liver transplantation outcomes. Selected patients with HRS-AKI may require simultaneous liver kidney transplantation based on updated Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network listing criteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2707-2716
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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