From the AGA Journals

AGA Clinical Practice Update: Surgical risk assessment and perioperative management in cirrhosis



Patients with cirrhosis should be risk stratified and counseled accordingly before all but the most urgent surgeries, cautions a clinical practice update from the American Gastroenterological Association.

University of Virginia Health System

Dr. Patrick G. Northup

These risks, which include mortality and reflect “the profound effects of hepatic synthetic dysfunction and portal hypertension,” require presurgical evaluation based on CTP score (Child-Pugh class), Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, Mayo Postoperative Mortality Risk Score, or another proven risk-stratification system, writes Patrick G. Northup, MD, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, together with his associates. “There is no single definitive risk-stratification system to determine operative risk in all patients with cirrhosis, and we recommend using multiple methods,” they elaborated in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The prevalence of cirrhosis is rising, affected patients are living longer, and liver disease is more advanced and may involve comorbidities that merit consideration of surgery, noted Dr. Northup and his associates. However, cirrhosis increases the risk for serious postoperative complications, including hepatic decompensation, worsening of liver synthetic function, exacerbated portal hypertension, wound dehiscence, pleural effusions, pneumonia, bacterial peritonitis, bleeding, and multiple organ failure. Because clinical trials of surgery in cirrhotic patients are lacking, the experts stress the need for case-by-case management.

There is no definite threshold that precludes all surgeries in cases of cirrhosis, but a Child-Pugh class C (CTP score over 10) or MELD score over 20 greatly increases the risk of postoperative decompensation and death. For these patients, “all but the most urgent and life-saving procedures” should be canceled or postponed until after liver transplantation, the experts wrote. For less severe cirrhosis, it is key to consider the type and anatomic site of the proposed surgery. Hepatobiliary surgeries, other intra-abdominal surgeries, cardiovascular surgeries, and thoracic procedures are most likely to lead to serious complications.

Preoperative care should emphasize control of ascites, variceal bleeding risk, and hepatic encephalopathy. Bleeding and clotting safety thresholds in cirrhosis are unknown, and individualized management, ideally with viscoelastic testing–directed therapy, is warranted instead of protocol transfusions to a target international normalized ratio (INR). Bleeding events are more common in critically ill patients with plasma fibrinogen ratios under 100 mg/dL.

Segmental hepatic resection (usually for malignancy), the most studied procedure in cirrhosis, is generally safe in the absence of clinically significant portal hypertension. For patients who do have portal hypertension, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) has not clearly been shown to outperform conservative management, although small case series have found that TIPS during deep pelvic or colonic resection decompresses abdominal collaterals.

Because of the risk of poor outcomes, patients with cirrhosis and incompletely controlled ascites should not undergo abdominal hernia repair unless they have an incarceration that is not manually reducible or suspected strangulation. Bariatric surgery is contraindicated in cases of clinically significant portal hypertension but otherwise can be performed at a center with cirrhosis expertise. Sleeve gastrectomy at the same time as liver transplantation is also an option for select patients with obesity.


Next Article: