BACKGROUND: The effect of adrenal replacement therapy (ART) with hydrocortisone on critical endpoints such as infection and mortality in critically ill patients with cirrhosis remains unclear. We evaluated our indications for ART in patients with cirrhosis with clinical symptoms of adrenal insufficiency (AI), and examined the rate of peri-transplant fungal colonization and mortality associated with ART.
METHODS: Seventy-eight patients with cirrhosis admitted to our institution's surgical intensive care unit (ICU) over a 4-year period met criteria for AI by vasopressor requirement and baseline cortisol levels. Outcomes included disposition at 90-days, fungal colonization, and fungal infection in the presence or absence of ART.
RESULTS: In total, 56 patients received hydrocortisone (HC+) while 22 did not (HC-). The HC+ and HC- groups had comparable median Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) scores (26.5 vs. 25, respectively; p=0.93), median ICU lengths of stay (23 vs. 20 days, respectively; p=0.54) and median cortisol levels (18 μg/dL for both, p=0.87). Fungal cultures (FC) from blood, urine or bronchoalveolar lavage/sputum were positive for 44% of HC+, and 40.9% of HC- (p=0.77) had mortality rates between HC+ and HC- groups that were not significantly different (60.7% vs. 50%, respectively; p=0.39; α=0.05). The 90-day outcomes for HC+ vs. HC- (39.3% vs. 50% discharged, respectively; p=0.39; α=0.05) and those surviving to transplant (17.9% vs. 36.4%, respectively; p=0.08; α=0.05) were not significantly different between the two groups.
CONCLUSION: In this small single-center series, we found that steroid administration for AI does not affect the rate of fungal colonization/infection or mortality. Further prospective studies are required to determine the utility of ART and factors affecting the rate of FC and mortality in these patients.
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