A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial of albumin in patients with hepatic encephalopathy: HEAL study

Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Virginia Commonwealth University and Central Virginia Veterans Healthcare System, Richmond, Virginia. Department of Biostatistics, Virginia Commonwealth University and Central Virginia Veterans Healthcare System, Richmond, Virginia. Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Virginia Commonwealth University and Central Virginia Veterans Healthcare System, Richmond, Virginia. Electronic address: jasmohan.bajaj@vcuhealth.org.

Journal of hepatology. 2022
PICO Summary

Population

Patients with hepatic encephalopathy enrolled in the HEAL study (n= 48).

Intervention

Albumin (n= 24).

Comparison

Saline (n= 24).

Outcome

Adverse events were similar, with MELD and ammonia remaining stable between/within groups. Albumin levels increased and ischemia-modified albumin decreased only in the albumin group at end-of-drug and end-of-study vs. baseline. Psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score and Stroop minimal hepatic encephalopathy reversal and improvement was greater in albumin group at end-of-drug and persisted at end-of-study. Sickness impact profile total and psychosocial, but not physical domain improved in the albumin but not placebo group vs. baseline at end-of-drug and end-of-study along with significant reduction in IL-1β, and endothelial dysfunction markers.
Abstract
BACKGROUND AND AIMS Even after recovery from overt hepatic encephalopathy (HE), minimal HE (MHE), which impairs quality of life (QOL), can persist. Treatment options are limited. AIM: Determine the impact of albumin versus saline on MHE and QOL in patients with prior HE already on standard of care using double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. METHODS Outpatients with cirrhosis and prior HE, MHE and hypoalbuminemia already on HE-treatment were included. Patients on regular IV albumin infusions were excluded. Subjects were randomized 1:1 to receive either weekly infusions of 25% IV albumin 1.5g/kg or saline over 5 weeks (end-of-drug,EOD) and then 1-week post-infusion (end-of-study,EOS). MHE was defined using either Psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score (PHES), Stroop or Critical clicker frequency. MHE and QOL using Sickness Impact profile (SIP total, physical, psychosocial domain, higher=worse) and serum (inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and ischemia-modified albumin IMA) were compared between baseline, EOD and EOS. RESULTS 48(24/group) subjects were randomized and were balanced at baseline, including HE-medication use. Adverse events were similar, with MELD and ammonia remaining stable between/within groups. Albumin levels increased and IMA decreased only in the albumin group at EOD and EOS vs baseline. PHES and Stroop MHE reversal and improvement was greater in albumin group at EOD and persisted at EOS. SIP total and psychosocial, but not physical domain improved in the albumin but not placebo group versus baseline at EOD and EOS along with significant reduction in IL-1β, and endothelial dysfunction markers. CONCLUSION In a double-blind, placebo controlled RCT of outpatients with cirrhosis, prior HE and current MHE, albumin infusions were associated with improved cognitive function and psychosocial quality of life likely through amelioration of endothelial dysfunction. LAY SUMMARY Patients who have liver cirrhosis often develop confusion that can result in difficulty thinking and processing information, which can negatively impact their quality of life. We performed a clinical trial of weekly injections of albumin (a protein normally made by the liver, and which is low in cirrhosis) and placebo in patients with cirrhosis and persistent brain problems and found that those who received albumin did better on their brain function and quality of life compared to those who received placebo. Albumin injections were also associated with reduction in inflammation and other blood factors that could potentially be a mechanism of this benefit.
Study details
Language : eng
Credits : Bibliographic data from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine