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On-treatment serum albumin level can guide long-term treatment in patients with cirrhosis and uncomplicated ascites

Published:August 24, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2020.08.021

      Highlights

      • Baseline serum albumin per se should not guide the decision to start albumin therapy.
      • 1-month on-treatment serum albumin levels predict survival and can be used to guide therapy.
      • The serum albumin target threshold to be pursued is 4.0 g/dl.
      • Baseline serum albumin and MELD score predict the achievement of this target.
      • A survival benefit is seen even when on-treatment serum albumin does not normalize.

      Background & Aims

      The ANSWER study reported that long-term albumin administration in patients with cirrhosis and uncomplicated ascites improves survival. During treatment, serum albumin increased within a month and remained stable thereafter. In this post hoc analysis, we aimed to determine whether on-treatment serum albumin levels could guide therapy.

      Methods

      Logistic regression was used to assess the association between baseline serum albumin and mortality, as well as to determine on-treatment factors associated with mortality and to predict the achievement of a given on-treatment serum albumin level. Survival was assessed by Kaplan-Meier estimates and second-order polynomial regression. Patients whose on-treatment serum albumin remained below normal were compared with a subset of patients from the control arm matched by principal score.

      Results

      Baseline serum albumin was closely associated with 18-month mortality in untreated patients; albumin treatment almost effaced this relationship. On-treatment serum albumin and MELD-Na at month 1 were the sole independent variables associated with mortality. Second-order polynomial regression revealed that survival improved in parallel with increased 1-month on-treatment serum albumin. Kaplan-Meier estimations showed that any value of 1-month on-treatment serum albumin (0.1 g/dl intervals) in the range 2.5–4.5 g/dl discriminated patient survival. In the normal range of serum albumin, the best discriminant value was 4.0 g/dl. Compared to untreated patients, survival even improved in patients whose on-treatment serum albumin remained below normal.

      Conclusion

      Baseline serum albumin per se should not guide the decision to start albumin therapy. Conversely, 1-month on-treatment serum albumin levels are strongly associated with outcomes and could guide the use of albumin – 4.0 g/dl being the target threshold. However, even patients whose serum albumin remains below normal benefit from long-term albumin administration.

      Lay summary

      The ANSWER study has shown that long-term albumin administration improves survival and prevents the occurrence of major complications in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. This study shows that the achievement of these beneficial effects is related to a significant increase in serum albumin concentration. Even though the best results follow the achievement of a serum albumin concentration of 4 g/dl, a survival benefit is also achieved in patients who fail to normalise serum albumin.

      Graphical abstract

      Keywords

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