Symptom Frequency and Distress Underestimated in Decompensated Cirrhosis

Lissi Hansen, Michael F. Chang, Shirin Hiatt, Nathan F. Dieckmann, Karen S. Lyons, Christopher S. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Studies assessing multiple symptoms and the distress of these symptoms in decompensated cirrhosis are lacking. Aims: The aims of this study were to assess symptom prevalence and distress among patients with decompensated cirrhosis and to describe medical management of the most prevalent symptoms. Methods: Patients were recruited from hepatology clinics within two health-care systems. Eligibility criteria included a model for end-stage liver disease (MELD-Na) score ≥15. Patients completed the Condensed Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale and Patient Health Questionnaire. Comparative statistics were used to analyze the cross-sectional survey data. Results: Of the sample (n = 146), most patients were Child-Turcotte-Pugh (CTP) class B (49.7%) and C (46.2%). Mean age was 56.5 years, 65.1% were male, and 88.4% were white. Average MELD-Na score was 19.1 ± 4.5. The most prevalent symptoms were lack of energy and feeling drowsy while the most distressing were lack of energy and difficulty sleeping. Only 24 patients (16.4%) were treated for their difficulty sleeping with sleep medication. Importantly, those prescribed sleep medications had similar distress (3.9 ± 1.2 vs. 3.5 ± 1.2, p = 0.229) compared with patients not prescribed sleep medications. Opioids were prescribed to 57 (39.0%) patients; antidepressants to 34 (23.3%). Forty patients (27.4%) who reported moderate or greater depression were not prescribed an antidepressant. Conclusions: The study highlights the multiple symptoms and distress experienced by patients with decompensated cirrhosis, and the need for improved medical management by health-care providers through enhanced awareness and attention to these complex symptoms. Future research should focus on improvements in symptom management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4234-4242
Number of pages9
JournalDigestive diseases and sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Depression
  • End-stage liver disease
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Pain
  • Symptom distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Gastroenterology


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