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HelixTalk #141 - What You Need to Know about Hepatorenal Syndrome: New Definitions, Treatments, and Clinical Pearls

Date posted: December 28, 2021, 6:00 am

In this episode, we provide a concise overview of the diagnosis and treatment of hepatorenal syndrome-acute kidney injury (HRS-AKI) with a focus on the new HRS-1 definition (now called HRS-AKI), new data with terlipressin, and the AASLD 2021 guidelines.


Key Concepts

  1. At a basic level, HRS-AKI is caused by portal hypertension leading to systemic vasodilation and a prerenal state.  Our treatment focuses on increasing vascular volume (usually with albumin) and vasoconstriction to increase renal perfusion.
  2. The newest HRS-AKI definition borrows most of the AKI definitions from the KDIGO criteria for AKI.  HRS-AKI requires cirrhosis, ascites, AKI, and an exclusion of other etiologies of AKI.
  3. In AKI and HRS-AKI, concentrated (25%) albumin is given. A dose of 1 gm/kg/day (max 100 gm) for two days is used for AKI.  For HRS-AKI, a dose of 20-50 grams/day is recommended.
  4. The preferred vasoconstrictor in HRS-AKI is terlipressin; however, it is not available in the US. Norepinephrine (if in the ICU) is second-line.  If not in the ICU, midodrine and octreotide are recommended.  Therapy is continued until renal function recovers, if there is no improvement at 4 days, or if a full 14 days of therapy has been given.


  • Biggins SW, Angeli P, Garcia-Tsao G, et al. Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Management of Ascites, Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis and Hepatorenal Syndrome: 2021 Practice Guidance by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology. 2021;74(2):1014-1048. doi:10.1002/hep.31884
  • European Association for the Study of the Liver. EASL Clinical Practice Guidelines for the management of patients with decompensated cirrhosis. J Hepatol. 2018;69(2):406-460. doi:10.1016/j.jhep.2018.03.024