Briefly Noted…Paracentesis, Hyperinsulinemic Hypoglcemia, and Hepatitis E

Paracentesis is associated with reduced mortality in patients hospitalized with cirrhosis and ascites (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014: 496-503).  This study relied on a 2009 Nationwide Inpatient Sample database with about 8 million discharges per year.  Of the 17,771 eligible admissions, 61% underwent paracentesis, most (66%) within 1 day of admission.  “In-hospital mortality was reduced by 24% among patients who underwent paracentesis.”  The authors note that some providers may overestimate the risk of bleeding and that many have developed an increased reliance on interventional radiology. While the authors were not certain why this mortality benefit occurred, they note that patients who underwent paracentesis were probably at least as sick as those who did not.  “Patients who underwent paracentesis were actually more likely to have sepsis or acute renal failure, both markers of illness severity.”

Sirolimus helps with hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia (NEJM 2014; 370: 1131-37).  This brief report showed that sirolimus can be an alternative to subtotal pancreatectomy.  It enabled the authors “to discontinue intravenous infusions of dextrose and glucagon in all four patients and to halt octreotide in three of four.  At 1 year of age, the four patients were continuing to receive sirolimus and were normoglycemic, without any apparent major adverse events.”  Of interest, these findings parallel the findings in adults with insulinoma who were treated with mTOR inhibitors.

Ribavirin treatment for chronic hepatitis E infection in transplant recipients (NEJM 2014; 370: 1111-20).  Retrospective uncontrolled study of 59 patients who had undergone solid-organ transplant had been treated with ribavirin at a mean dose of 600 mg for median of three months.  Median time for HEV infection prior to therapy was nine months. HEV RNA level was undetectable in 46 of 59 patients (78%) after cessation of ribavirin.

Related blog posts:

Sirolimus and transplant mortality

A surprise to me was a recent study which identified sirolimus as a risk factor for increased mortality and graft loss in HCV-positive liver transplant patients (Liver Transpl 2012; 18: 1029-36, commentary 1003-1004).

Sirolimus mechanism of action: inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) which is a phosphoinositide 3-kinase which affects cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and immune function.  For transplant patients, sirolimus blocks interleukin-2-induced stimulation of T lymphocytes.

Black box warnings for sirolimus: FDA warns that sirolimus can increase risk of hepatic artery thrombosis, graft loss, and death with de novo sirolimus-based treatment.

What’s different about HCV transplants? HCV reinfection occurs immediately during liver transplantation and “unlike all other indications, graft survival and patient survival have not improved” (between 1991-2001).  HCV transplant survival continues to be 10-15% lower than non-HCV transplant survival.  Immunosuppression allows more rapid progression of HCV; this allows ~20% of recipients to develop cirrhosis within 5 years of transplantation.

The authors of the study analyzed 26,414 patients (12,589 with hepatitis C virus) from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) database; all recipients were >18 years.  Among this database, 1685 liver transplant recipients received sirolimus; in the majority, it was administered along with a calcineurin inhibitor.  A multivariate analysis of patient mortality showed the following were risk factors for increased mortality:

  • recipient age
  • donor age
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • diabetes
  • creatinine

Tacrolimus-based immunosuppression was associated with superior survival. Whereas, the use of sirolimus was associated with increased mortality in patients with HCV, even when adjusting for confounding variables (eg. renal function, and cancer).  In patients who received sirolimus at baseline, the adjusted HR for mortality at 3 years was 1.29 (p=0.0053).  In non-HCV patients, the adjusted HR for the sirolimus group was 1.09  (p=0.40).  Also, duration of exposure to sirolimus was directly correlated with worse outcomes.  Why?

This is not clear.  It is recognized that the study has several limitations.  Due to the nature of the SRTR database, there is not adequate information on how sirolimus may have affected viral load, histologic progression or causes of death.  Despite attempts to control for risk factors, it is possible that the sirolimus group did have higher disease severity.  Nevertheless, sirolimus effects on multiple cellular functions may have deleterious consequences in certain subsets of patients.

Something new for blue (BRBNS)

A case report describes the use of low-dose sirolimus (rapamycin) for treating blue rubber bleb nevus syndrome (BRBNS).  (Pediatrics 2012; 129: e1080-84). This patient, an 8-year-old girl from Turkey) presented with massive gastrointestinal bleeding had multiple venous malformations all over her body, especially throughout her gastrointestinal tract.

Before instituting sirolimus, patient had failed several agents: prednisolone, interferon-α, propranolol, and aminocaproic acid.  Sirolimus was dosed at 0.05-0.1 mg/kg as an antiangiogenic agent with a goal of maintaining a trough level between 1 and 5 ng/mL.  The lesions decreased in size but did not disappear.  Initially, patient received therapy with propranolol concomitantly.  Dramatic improvements in hemoglobin were noted after starting sirolimus therapy.

Additional references:

  • -Pediatr Blood Cancer 2011; 57: 1018-24.  Use of sirolimus for complicated vascular anomalies in children
  • -Pediatrics 2001; 107: 418.  Case report of BRBNS
  • -JPGN 2001; 33:183-188. Use of octreotide in BRBNS