an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. This is a common complication of cirrhosis.


a chronic liver disease that is a result of longstanding or repeated damage to the liver. Scar tissue replaces normal tissue, resulting in many complications related to loss of normal liver function. Cirrhosis is often referred to as end-stage liver disease.

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE)

a dysfunction of the brain and nervous system that occurs in patients with cirrhosis. This disorder is thought to be due to the presence of waste products in the bloodstream, such as ammonia, that are normally detoxified by the liver.


inflammation of the liver that may be caused by a variety of diseases, toxins, and drugs. Hepatitis may by acute or chronic and patients may exhibit symptoms, such as abdominal pain, jaundice, or nausea. Hepatitis may also be severe enough to require hospitalization.


yellow discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes that occurs in patients with hepatitis or cirrhosis. This is due to accumulation of a substance called bilirubin that is normally detoxified by the liver.


the inability to absorb nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract. This is often seen in patients with chronic pancreatitis, who lose the ability to digest orally ingested food (maldigestion) due to a lack of pancreatic enzymes.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

chronic liver disease related to fatty infiltration of the liver, often found in patients with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.


inflammation of the pancreas due to toxins, drugs, trauma, structural abnormalities, or other causes. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic.

Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency

the inability of the pancreas to supply adequate enzymes for normal digestion of food. This results in maldigestion and symptoms such as steatorrhea.

Portal hypertension

increased pressure in the portal vein, due to a backup of blood flow as a result of the presence of fibrosis due to cirrhosis.


a large fluid collection that forms in or around the pancreas as a result of inflammation due to pancreatitis.


enlarged veins located in the lower part of the esophagus or the stomach that are close to the surface. These form as a result of portal hypertension. The veins become so large that they may burst, leading to life-threatening bleeding.


After completing this chapter, you should be able to

  1. Define the following:

    • Hepatitis.

    • Cirrhosis.

    • Ascites.

    • Encephalopathy.

    • Jaundice.

    • Esophageal varices.

    • Portal hypertension.

    • Pancreatitis.

    • Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency.

    • Malabsorption.

    • Pseudocyst.

  2. Recall common causes and complications of chronic liver disease.

  3. Review the role and mechanism of common drug treatments for cirrhosis.

  4. Review adverse effects and drug interactions for medications used in the treatment of chronic liver disease.

  5. Identify key patient counseling points for medications used to treat complications of chronic liver disease.

  6. Describe the anatomy and normal physiology of the liver and pancreas.

  7. Recognize common medications used in the management of acute pancreatitis.

  8. Review adverse effects, drug interactions, and key patient counseling points for medications used in the treatment of chronic pancreatitis.

Hepatic disorders are those that directly affect the liver. Given that the liver is a vital organ that is involved in many important functions in the human body, diseases of the liver can result in very serious consequences for patients. There are many different causes of both acute and chronic liver disease. These include infections, such as those due to hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus, exposure to drugs and alternative medications or other toxins, inherited or genetic disorders, autoimmune disorders (where the body’s immune system attacks its own organs), and metabolic disorders, among others. Approximately 1 million deaths per year are attributed to complications of cirrhosis.1 This makes the prevention and treatment of liver disease and its complications a significant area of healthcare focus and utilization.

Traditionally, the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States are chronic alcohol abuse and hepatitis C virus infection.1,2 However the increasing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United States has led to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) now being recognized as the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States.3 While some drug treatments may target the acute processes involved in liver disease, such as those caused by viruses or autoimmune conditions, much of the drug management revolves around management of chronic liver disease and its associated complications. Therefore, this chapter focuses on common medications used in the chronic management of advanced nonviral-associated liver diseases and its complications.


Jessica Worthy is a 47-year-old woman who is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 128 lb. She has a history of alcohol abuse and reports drinking 8–10 beers daily during the past 20 years. She is seen today at the clinic with complaints of abdominal swelling, swollen ankles, mild shortness of breath, and a 10-lb weight gain over the past 3 weeks. She has noticed that the whites of her eyes and her skin are turning yellow. She currently takes no medications and reports no allergies to medications or foods. After review of her physical exam, laboratory tests, and radiology results, her healthcare provider tells her that she has developed cirrhosis due to chronic alcohol abuse.

Anatomy and Physiology of the Liver

The liver is a large organ that consists of two major sections, called lobes, and is located in the right upper portion of the abdominal cavity (Figure 23-1). It performs many important functions, including metabolism of drugs and nutrients; detoxification of metabolic waste products and toxins; synthesis of proteins, cholesterol, and bile; excretion of waste products; and participation in host immunity. The blood flow coming into the liver is unique in that it comes mostly from a large blood vessel called the portal vein. A small portion of blood flow comes also from the hepatic artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood to the liver. The portal vein drains blood from the stomach and intestines and delivers it to the liver. Therefore, any nutrient or drug that is orally ingested passes through the portal vein and goes to the liver first before making its way to the systemic circulation. This is often referred to as the “first pass effect.” Based on this blood flow the liver is able to act as a filter to help metabolize or detoxify any potentially harmful substances that are orally absorbed before they reach the bloodstream.

FIGURE 23-1.
FIGURE 23-1.

Position of liver and pancreas.

Once blood enters the liver it passes slowly through small cavities called sinusoids. As the blood passes through the sinusoids it is exposed to the various types of cells located in the liver. The largest number of cells are called hepatocytes. These cells perform most of the detoxification and metabolic processes within the liver. The hepatocytes also produce important proteins, such as albumin and various proteins involved in the normal blood clotting process. Specialized cells, called Kupffer cells, help to remove any bacteria that may have entered the liver through the portal vein. Once filtered, the blood then leaves the liver and enters the systemic circulation through the hepatic veins.

The liver also produces a substance called bile, which helps to remove fat-soluble substances, including some drugs, from the body. Bile contains molecules known as bile acids, which also aid in fat absorption in the small intestine. Bile leaves the liver and travels through a series of tube-like structures called bile ducts. All the bile ducts that collect and drain bile from the liver are referred to collectively as the biliary system. The biliary system drains into series of larger ducts that exit the liver and eventually empty into the small intestine. Most substances that are secreted into the bile are eliminated in the feces after entering the small intestine. Bile also includes some important waste products such as bilirubin, which, if not excreted properly, accumulates in the body and leads to jaundice, a yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes. For most patients additional symptoms from jaundice are rare, but in severe cases they may experience intense itching or dark-colored urine.


Do Ms. Worthy’s abdominal swelling, ankle swelling, and shortness of breath indicate that she has most likely developed a major complication of cirrhosis? Which complication would match these symptoms?

Chronic Complications of Hepatic Disorders


As the liver sustains repeated injury and inflammation over a long time, a process referred to as fibrosis takes place. Fibrosis leads to the replacement of normal liver cells with scar tissue. The function of the remaining normal liver cells is often able to compensate for the initial fibrosis. Once the fibrosis gets severe enough, the structure of the liver cells and blood vessels is altered, and the liver starts to lose the ability to perform its normal functions. This advanced stage is referred to as cirrhosis, also sometimes called end-stage liver disease. The development of cirrhosis is a slow process and patients may not be aware that they have it until complications are present or abnormalities are identified on laboratory examination of liver function tests. Patients with cirrhosis may develop complications such as jaundice, an enlarged spleen, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy (HE), edema, and an increased risk for liver cancer.46 When these complications are present patients are then referred to as having decompensated cirrhosis.7

Laboratory abnormalities seen in patients with cirrhosis often include increased or normal AST/ALT (liver function tests), low serum albumin, increased serum bilirubin and prothrombin time (or INR), anemia, and low platelets. Once cirrhosis develops, the damage to the liver is generally considered to be irreversible. Patients may ultimately require a liver transplant as a consequence of cirrhosis.

Variceal Bleeding

Blood entering the liver through the portal vein can usually flow through the sinusoids without much resistance. Once patients develop cirrhosis, the structural changes and presence of scar tissue in the liver cause increased resistance to blood flow within the liver. This limits the ability of blood to flow easily into the liver from the portal vein and leads to a backup of blood flow and increased pressure in the portal vein. This process ultimately results in increased pressure within the portal vein, referred to as portal hypertension. This increased pressure in the portal vein causes a backup of blood flow in the blood vessels in the surrounding area that empty into the portal vein leading to collateral vessel formation. These blood vessels, located mostly in the esophagus or stomach, significantly enlarge and protrude close to the surface. These enlarged vessels are referred to as varices. Approximately 50% of patients with cirrhosis have gastroesophageal varices, and the percentage of patients with varices increases as the liver disease becomes more severe.57

Once varices are present, they can continue to increase in size and may protrude into the center of the esophagus. The most serious (and sometimes even fatal) complication that can occur is bleeding secondary to rupture of the varices. Following an acute bleeding episode, patients are at high risk for rebleeding, with this risk being highest within the first 5 days after the bleeding episode.5 Certain drug and nondrug therapies may be used to prevent a first episode of bleeding in patients with varices (referred to as primary prevention) or to prevent future bleeding in patients who have already experienced a variceal bleeding episode (called secondary prevention).


By definition, ascites is the presence of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. It is one of the most common complications of cirrhosis and occurs in up to 50% of patients within 10 years of their diagnosis.6 The development of ascites is related to both portal hypertension and dilation of the blood vessels that supply the liver and the gastrointestinal (GI) system. This dilation of blood vessels is due to the increased local production of substances such as nitric oxide, which cause the blood vessels to relax and increase blood flow. The shift in blood flow causes the blood volume in the rest of the arterial system to decrease. The body senses this and institutes processes that lead to sodium and water retention to try and maintain arterial blood volume. Since blood flow through the liver is already compromised in cirrhosis, excessive sodium and water retention causes fluid to leak out of the surface of the liver into the peritoneal cavity. The rate of death due to ascites is approximately 44% within 5 years.6

Patients with ascites may have several liters of fluid present in their peritoneal cavity. This causes patients to develop serious abdominal swelling, which can limit mobility and cause shortness of breath if the fluid presses on the diaphragm and does not allow the lungs to expand normally. Patients often complain of abdominal discomfort and may gain several pounds of weight because of the large amount of fluid that is retained. Patients may also develop hernias due to the increased pressure in the abdominal cavity. The fluid may also become infected with bacteria, leading to the development of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Samples of the ascitic fluid may be taken by inserting a needle through the abdominal wall into the peritoneal cavity. This is called paracentesis. Patients who don’t respond to drug treatment for ascites may need paracentesis on a regular basis to remove large amounts of fluid (more than 5 liters) to relieve their symptoms. Alternatively, patients may require placement of a stent, called a TIPS (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt), to reduce pressure in the portal vein with the hopes of reducing the rate of ascitic fluid production.4 The ultimate cure for ascites is liver transplantation.

Hepatic Encephalopathy

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a metabolic disorder that is another common complication of cirrhosis. Patients with HE experience alterations in mental status, consciousness or alertness, behavior, and muscle function. The primary reason patients develop HE is thought to be the accumulation of various substances in the bloodstream that are normally detoxified by the liver. The major substance involved in the development of HE is ammonia. Ammonia is produced by various tissues in the body but is mostly produced in the colon as a byproduct of bacterial protein metabolism. Ammonia enters the bloodstream via the portal vein. The hepatocytes metabolize the ammonia to urea, which is then mostly excreted through the kidney. Some urea does diffuse back into the intestines from the bloodstream, where bacteria convert it back into ammonia. In patients with liver disease, less ammonia is converted into urea, and the excess may enter the central nervous system, leading to significant dysfunction. Other substances may also contribute to the development of HE but to a lesser extent than ammonia. Several additional factors may precipitate HE, and ammonia may sensitize the brain to the effects of these factors. Precipitating factors include excess protein intake, infection, GI bleeding, electrolyte disturbances, acidosis, and drugs that have sedative or central nervous system depressant effects, such as narcotics.8

Patients with HE require a lot of focused care. They may appear sleepy or confused and may be unable to cooperate with their caregivers. They may also be unable to perform routine tasks that require fine motor function and be confined to a bed in severe cases. Patients with HE may also have disturbances in their sleep patterns and may exhibit bizarre or aggressive behavior. If untreated, patients may fall into a coma. Fortunately, HE may be reversible with the removal of precipitating factors, restriction of protein intake, and initiation of drug treatment.

Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis

Infections are another common complication of cirrhosis. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) is an often-fatal complication, and occurs when bacteria cause infection of the ascitic fluid within the peritoneal cavity.6,7 Infection is thought to occur by a process known as bacterial translocation, in which bacteria migrate from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream and ultimately end up in the ascitic fluid. This is secondary to the reduced immune system function that develops in patients with cirrhosis, possible bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, and reduced GI motility. Once bacteria enter the ascitic fluid, the dysfunction of the immune system caused by chronic liver disease results in a lack of clearance of the bacteria. The most common bacteria that cause SBP are organisms that normally reside in the intestinal tract, such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella, or Proteus. Gram positive organisms, such as Staphylococcus or Streptococci, may also be present. Risk factors for the development of SBP include a low ascitic fluid protein, increased serum bilirubin, and the presence of variceal bleeding.7,8

Patients who develop SBP may have signs or symptoms that include fever, abdominal pain or tenderness, altered mental status, vomiting, or diarrhea. Laboratory values may indicate an elevated white blood cell count in the ascitic fluid or presence of an elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) or lowered bicarbonate concentration (acidosis). The diagnosis is ultimately made by performing a paracentesis. The presence of inflammation secondary to SBP may also lead to decreased perfusion of the kidney. Kidney dysfunction is a major concern and is a leading cause of mortality in patients with SBP.7 Once patients have SBP they often require lifelong antibiotic treatment to prevent further SBP episodes.


Ms. Worthy’s healthcare provider has referred her to a liver specialist for management of her cirrhosis. The specialist performs an endoscopy and finds several large esophageal varices. What is the major complication associated with untreated esophageal varices?

Pharmacologic Agents Used in the Management of Hepatic Disorders

A wide variety of medications are used to treat and prevent the complications of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Most medications that have favorable effects are used for other non-liver associated conditions, while some are specifically used to treat or prevent certain complications of cirrhosis.

Beta Blockers for Prevention of Variceal Bleeding

Beta-adrenergic antagonists (often referred to as “beta blockers”) are traditionally used for patients with cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, or rapid heart rate (as discussed in Chapters 15 and 16). However, in patients with cirrhosis, beta blockers are used for the prevention of variceal bleeding. Beta blockers work by inhibiting the actions of epinephrine and norepinephrine at the beta-receptor. Stimulation of beta11) receptors causes increases in heart rate and blood pressure, while stimulation of beta22) receptors causes relaxation of the smooth muscles in the airways and in the blood vessels in the GI system. The stimulation of the beta2 receptor causes the blood vessels in the GI system to dilate, therefore increasing blood flow to the portal vein.

Beta blockers are thought to prevent variceal bleeding by reducing heart rate and cardiac output (β1 effects), therefore reducing the amount of blood that is pumped to the GI system and portal vein. This results in reductions in portal vein pressure. They also prevent the dilation of the blood vessels in the GI system (β2 effects), causing these blood vessels to constrict and further reduce blood flow to the portal vein. To have these favorable effects, the use of agents that block both β1 and β2 receptors, also referred to as “nonselective” beta blockers, is required. The most commonly used nonselective beta blockers are propranolol, carvedilol, and nadolol. Beta blockers that only target the β1 receptor, such as atenolol or metoprolol, are less effective and therefore are not recommended for the prevention of variceal bleeding. Patients who are candidates for the use of beta blockers for primary prevention are those with advanced cirrhosis and “high-risk varices,” which are either small varices that have certain characteristics, called red wale marks (seen during endoscopy), or any patient with medium or large varices. Any patient who experiences an episode of variceal bleeding should receive a nonselective beta blocker for secondary prevention of a future episode.

Beta blockers can significantly reduce the rate of variceal bleeding. Propranolol is typically started at a low dose of 20 mg orally twice daily or 10 mg orally 3 times daily. A typical starting dose for nadolol is 40 mg once daily. The goal is to reduce the heart rate by at least 25% from baseline to a goal of 55–60 beats/minute. Once patients reach the maximum effective dose, they may be switched to long-acting formulations that are given once daily to improve adherence.

Unfortunately, beta blockers may be associated with many side effects, including fatigue, low blood pressure and heart rate, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. Increases in blood sugar or potassium levels may also occur. Patients with asthma, those with diabetes who experience frequent hypoglycemia, those with peripheral vascular disease or preexisting low heart rate should not receive beta blockers. For patients who cannot tolerate beta blockers, the preferred method of prevention is endoscopic variceal ligation. This procedure involves placing rubber bands around the varices during endoscopy, which cause the varices to become necrotic and die.


Which medication(s) might be prescribed as initial therapy to help remove fluid and reduce Ms. Worthy’s abdominal and ankle swelling?

Diuretics for Management of Ascites and Edema

Diuretics are medications that work by increasing fluid and sodium loss through the kidney. The main role of diuretics in patients with cirrhosis is the treatment of ascites and edema (leg and ankle swelling). The main goals of diuretic therapy are to reduce patient symptoms and remove an adequate amount of fluid and sodium. Prior to starting diuretics, patients should restrict their intake of sodium to less than 2,000 mg/day. This will help to prevent further formation of ascites and edema; however, these restrictions are very difficult to follow for most patients.

The most common diuretic regimen used in the treatment of ascites is the combination of furosemide and spironolactone.6,7 Furosemide is a potent loop diuretic that causes rapid excretion of water and sodium from the kidney. Furosemide is typically started at an oral dose of 40 mg once daily in the morning.6 It is also available as an intravenous (IV) preparation that can be used in hospitalized patients with severe ascites and edema, or in patients who cannot swallow. IV doses range from 20–80 mg and may be repeated several times throughout the day. Spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic that works synergistically with furosemide. While its diuretic effects are much weaker than furosemide, spironolactone also has favorable effects on blocking the effects of aldosterone, the main hormone that leads to excessive sodium and water retention in patients with cirrhosis. It also helps to offset the loss of potassium that occurs with furosemide. A typical starting dose of spironolactone is 100 mg once daily in the morning, given in combination with 40 mg furosemide.6

Once diuretic therapy is started urine output should be monitored to ensure effectiveness. Most patients will also be weighed daily to mark fluid loss. The use of furosemide may cause excessive loss of sodium and potassium, so these laboratory values are usually monitored closely. Furosemide may also cause increases in ammonia production in the kidney, which may precipitate HE. Spironolactone use may be associated with elevated blood concentrations of potassium. In addition, male patients may experience painful breast swelling, called gynecomastia, because spironolactone may cause reduced effects of testosterone in the body. If the patient experiences gynecomastia an alternate potassium-sparing diuretic, such as amiloride, may be substituted, although this drug may be less effective and is more costly.


One way to gauge the effectiveness of diuretics in patients with ascites is to have patients monitor their weight. Patients should initially weigh themselves daily to monitor for adequate weight reduction due to fluid loss, especially if they have edema.

For patients who are acutely symptomatic from massive ascites or those who are unresponsive to diuretic therapy, removal of fluid by performing periodic paracentesis may be needed. Paracentesis, while faster at removing fluid than diuretics, is only a symptomatic intervention and does not address the underlying process that leads to formation of ascites. Removal of large quantities of fluid (> 5 L) via paracentesis may cause shifting of fluid from the bloodstream back into the peritoneal cavity. This may reduce blood flow to the kidney, leading to kidney failure. IV albumin may be administered in this setting to help prevent kidney failure. Ultimately, patients may need a liver transplant or placement of a TIPS shunt to alleviate ascites.

Lactulose for Treatment and Prevention of Hepatic Encephalopathy

As discussed earlier, the major substance thought to contribute to the development of HE is ammonia. Thus, therapies that are effective at managing HE are those that reduce blood concentrations of ammonia. One such drug is the nonabsorbable sugar lactulose. Lactulose is available as a solution that contains 10 g lactulose/15 mL (tablespoon) or as 10-g or 20-g powder packets that can be dissolved in water. When ingested orally lactulose is not absorbed—it remains in the intestine and is broken down by bacteria in the colon to acetic acid and lactic acid. This makes the environment of the colon more acidic. Ammonia (the chemical designation is NH3) in the acidified colon is converted to a charged form called ammonium ion (NH4+) that cannot pass back through the intestine into the bloodstream. Additionally, lactulose acts as a laxative and causes increased frequency of bowel movements. This leads to excretion of ammonia in the stool, which ultimately reduces blood ammonia concentrations and improves the symptoms of HE. A typical starting dose of lactulose is 20–30 g (30–45 mL) every 1–2 hours until one-two soft bowel movements occur. Once this happens the dose is reduced to maintain two to three bowel movements a day. A typical maintenance dose is 10–20 g (15–30 mL) orally two or three times a day.


For hospitalized patients who cannot swallow, 300 mL of lactulose may be mixed with 700 mL of water and administered as a retention enema (retained in the colon for at least 1 hour).

Lactulose therapy is commonly used for both acute and chronic management of HE. Since lactulose is a laxative, the main adverse effect seen in practice is diarrhea. Doses may be reduced in patients who experience more than two to three bowel movements daily. Patients may have difficulty with adherence to lactulose therapy because of the need to have frequent bowel movements. Diarrhea may lead to dehydration in severe cases, as well as loss of potassium through the GI tract. Lactulose may also cause abdominal cramping and distension, as well as flatulence. Lactulose tastes very sweet, which may not be appealing to some patients.


Ms. Worthy was hospitalized last night for altered mental status. The medical team in the hospital started her on oral lactulose for treatment of HE. What major adverse effect is expected with the use of lactulose?

Antibiotics for Prevention and Treatment of Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis and Hepatic Encephalopathy

Antibiotics have various roles in the management of the complications of chronic liver disease, including both prevention and treatment of SBP and HE. These drugs are discussed extensively in Chapter 27 but will be introduced here in context. For patients who have not had a prior episode of SBP, antibiotics may be prescribed on a chronic basis to select patients to prevent a first episode (primary prevention). Antibiotics also reduce the rate of development of SBP and improve rates of survival in the setting of acute variceal bleeding.

The most common antibiotics used for SBP prevention in patients with acute variceal bleeding are third-generation cephalosporins, such as ceftriaxone 1 g IV every 24 hours.6,7 Alternatively, systemic antibiotic therapy with ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin may be considered. There is concern, however, for an increase in potential adverse effects with these agents.

Patients who develop an acute episode of SBP are typically hospitalized and require systemic IV antibiotic treatment as initial therapy for a total of 5 days. This is usually a third-generation cephalosporin, such as ceftriaxone, often in combination with IV albumin. Albumin where indicated based on lab values, is thought to prevent the development of kidney failure in patients with SBP.6,7 More broad-spectrum antibiotics, such as piperacillin/tazobactam or meropenem, may be required if the patient has a previous history of SBP or develops the infection during hospitalization. Ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin may be options in patients with serious penicillin allergies; however, the potential for serious adverse effects needs to be considered. Aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as gentamicin or tobramycin, should be avoided, as they can cause serious injury to the kidney. The antibiotics should also be dose-adjusted properly for the patient’s kidney function.

Once patients recover from an acute episode of SBP they typically receive lifelong oral antibiotic therapy to prevent further episodes (secondary prevention), unless there is a significant improvement in their liver disease over time. The antibiotic used should preferably be one that is poorly absorbed and thus targets the bacteria in the GI tract, although systemically absorbed antibiotics are also routinely used and are effective. The choice of antibiotic may be made based on several factors, including cost, presence of allergies, frequency of administration, and potential for drug interactions and adverse effects. Recent guidelines recommend norfloxacin or ciprofloxacin daily as preferred agents. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, one double-strength tablet given once daily for 5–7 days per week, is often prescribed as a starting regimen. The use of antibiotics for treatment or prevention of SBP may be associated with adverse effects. These are discussed in Chapter 27.

The other main use for antibiotics in patients with cirrhosis is the treatment and prevention of HE. Antibiotics are considered therapeutic alternatives to lactulose.7,8 This is based on the fact that a large proportion of ammonia is produced by the bacteria that normally live in the colon. By reducing the number of bacteria, the amount of ammonia that is produced and absorbed into the systemic circulation is significantly reduced, thus improving symptoms of HE. Antibiotics may also be combined with lactulose in patients who do not completely respond to appropriate doses of lactulose. Similar to prevention of SBP, antibiotics that are poorly absorbed can be used for the treatment of HE. The most widely studied antibiotic for HE is neomycin 3–6 g daily orally in divided doses. When taken orally, less than 1% of an oral dose of neomycin is absorbed. Nevertheless, there is concern for kidney dysfunction with long-term use and thus, its use has largely fallen out of favor.


Over time, the small portion of neomycin that is absorbed may accumulate and cause kidney damage or hearing loss.

Rifaximin has become the most common antibiotic used for HE. When taken orally, only about 0.5% (about 1/200th of the dose) is absorbed; thus, its effects are localized to the GI tract. Unlike neomycin, rifaximin is not associated with kidney or hearing dysfunction. Overall, it may be better tolerated than lactulose. Rifaximin’s main role is for the prevention of recurrent episodes of HE, often in combination with lactulose. The recommended rifaximin dose is 550 mg orally twice daily.


Ms. Worthy’s HE was caused by spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Which drug regimen would be appropriate as initial treatment for this infection?

Octreotide for Acute Variceal Bleeding

As mentioned, acute variceal bleeding is associated with significant morbidity and mortality in patients with cirrhosis. When patients develop acute variceal bleeding, the treatment is typically a combination of direct therapies administered via endoscopy, such as endoscopic variceal ligation or sclerotherapy (injection of an irritating substance into the bleeding varices that causes local inflammation and coagulation). In addition, drugs that cause constriction of the vessels in the intestinal system may also help to reduce blood flow into the portal vein. This may reduce acute bleeding. Octreotide is a drug that constricts the intestinal blood vessels in this setting. It is thought to act by reducing the release of substances that cause dilation of GI blood vessels and is administered as an initial IV bolus dose of 50 mcg, followed by a continuous infusion of 50 mcg/hour IV for a total of 2–5 days. Potential adverse effects of octreotide include nausea, headache, dizziness, low calcium, and increased or decreased blood glucose.


Octreotide is available in two formulations, a solution for IV or subcutaneous injection and a suspension that is administered intramuscularly. The solution is used for the IV infusion that patients with acute variceal bleeding receive. Octreotide multidose vials may be reconstituted with either normal saline or 5% dextrose. A typical preparation for infusion would be 1,000 mcg of octreotide injected into either a 100-mL or 250-mL bag of normal saline or 5% dextrose. This would yield concentrations of 10 mcg/mL or 4 mcg/mL, respectively.


Albumin is one of the primary circulating proteins in the bloodstream and is a major product of the liver. One of albumin’s main functions is to help maintain the appropriate amount of fluid in the bloodstream by virtue of its osmotic effects. In advanced liver disease, the ability of the liver to produce albumin is significantly reduced. As the blood concentration of albumin becomes lower, fluid that is normally retained in the bloodstream leaks into the tissues, causing edema. Additional fluid may leak into the peritoneal cavity, worsening ascites. Likewise, blood flow to vital organs, such as the kidney, may be reduced as blood volume decreases. Therefore, administration of IV albumin has a role in patients with cirrhosis who are at high risk for kidney dysfunction, such as those with SBP and those patients who are undergoing large-volume paracentesis. In these settings IV infusions of albumin are thought to help maintain blood volume and possibly bind inflammatory substances.

In SBP an IV dose of 25% albumin 1.5 g/kg given on day 1, followed by 1 g/kg on day 3 given in conjunction with IV antibiotics has been shown to reduce the incidence of kidney impairment.6 In patients who undergo paracentesis, fluid may shift from the bloodstream back into the peritoneal cavity. This may reduce perfusion (blood flow) to the kidney and cause kidney failure. This typically does not happen unless more than 5 L is removed at any one time. Albumin infusions can help maintain blood volume and prevent this shift of fluid following paracentesis. Recommendations are to use 6–8 g albumin/liter of fluid removed in patients who have 5 or more liters removed at one time.6,7 Albumin is well tolerated, with allergic reactions occurring very rarely.


The major obstacle to use of albumin is that it is very costly. A treatment course used for SBP or for large-volume paracentesis may cost several hundred dollars. This makes the use of albumin restricted at many institutions.

Introduction to Pancreatic Disorders

The pancreas is an accessory organ to the GI system that is involved in many important endocrine and exocrine (digestive) processes. The pancreas works in conjunction with the liver to facilitate nutrient digestion and absorption, regulate blood glucose concentrations, and produce many other important hormones involved in normal GI and metabolic processes. Dysfunction of the pancreas can lead to serious metabolic consequences and may adversely affect nutritional status if chronic dysfunction develops. While many disorders may affect the pancreas, this chapter focuses on pancreatitis, particularly the medications used in the management of acute and chronic pancreatitis.


Donald Bradley is a 58-year-old man who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 190 lb. He has a history of alcohol abuse and reports drinking one pint of vodka daily for the past 22 years. He is admitted to the hospital with complaints of severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. He currently takes no medications and reports no drug allergies. Laboratory tests reveal an elevated lipase and white blood cell count. He is diagnosed with acute pancreatitis.

Anatomy and Physiology of the Pancreas

The pancreas is located just underneath the liver, in close proximity to the duodenum (first part of the small intestine—see Figure 23-1). It is a long and narrow organ that has a larger section, referred to as the head, which then tapers into the section known as the tail. The pancreas contains several different cell types. The endocrine cells secrete important hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood glucose, as well as other hormones, such as somatostatin. These substances can enter the bloodstream directly from the pancreas and exert their effects on other organs or cells in the body. The exocrine cells store and secrete pancreatic enzymes, which are important in the digestion of food. The major groups of pancreatic enzymes that are involved in food digestion are amylases, which digest sugars and carbohydrates; proteases, which digest proteins; and lipases, which digest fats.

Pancreatic enzymes are stored in inactive forms within the pancreas and are released during food intake. The pancreatic enzymes are secreted through a series of ducts that drain the pancreas. These ducts are lined with cells that produce bicarbonate, which is secreted along with the pancreatic enzymes. The bicarbonate helps to protect the enzymes from the acidic contents that enter the small intestine from the stomach. The pancreatic enzymes are released into the common bile duct, which also receives and drains secretions from the liver. The common bile duct empties the liver and pancreatic secretions into the small intestine at the time food is present. Thus, as food leaves the stomach it is exposed to the pancreatic enzymes and the secretions of the liver. The digestion of fat by the pancreatic enzymes also helps facilitate the absorption of the major fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K in the small intestine.9


What are the primary causes of acute pancreatitis in the United States? Which one most likely caused Mr. Bradley’s condition?

Pathophysiology of Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

The pancreas may be susceptible to injury from a wide variety of causes. Injury to the pancreas may be short term and reversible, as in the case of acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is an inflammatory process within the pancreas that is thought to be triggered by an initial event that causes the premature release of pancreatic enzymes within the pancreas. This local release of pancreatic enzymes causes damage and inflammation within the pancreas. This inflammation can then extend into the areas surrounding the pancreas. In severe cases inflammation can cause serious systemic complications. The most common causes of acute pancreatitis are gallstones, chronic alcohol use, and extremely elevated triglycerides.9,10 Several different medications are also associated with the development of acute pancreatitis. Drugs that have a definite association with the development of acute pancreatitis include azathioprine, estrogens, valproic acid, and enalapril, among others.10 Up to 20% of cases have no identifiable cause and are referred to as idiopathic.

Patients with acute pancreatitis almost always require hospitalization. Cases may range from mild to severe, with severe cases typically managed in an intensive care unit. Patients often exhibit abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Patients may have an elevated white blood cell count, low serum calcium, and elevated liver function tests and blood glucose. Blood tests often reveal an abnormally elevated lipase, which is very indicative of pancreatic inflammation. Most patients have localized pancreatic inflammation, but some may progress to necrosis (cell death) of the pancreatic tissue. Of these, many will develop a secondary infection.9,10 Other local complications may include the development of an abscess or pseudocyst, a large fluid collection that forms in or around the pancreas. This fluid often requires surgical drainage and may become infected with bacteria.

In severe cases of pancreatitis patients may develop organ failure, respiratory distress, and shock. Some of these complications can be fatal. In most cases acute pancreatitis is reversible and once the cause is removed the pancreatitis should resolve, although any complications may need further management.

Chronic pancreatitis develops when there is progressive inflammation and damage to the pancreas over time that results in irreversible endocrine and exocrine function. Chronic alcohol use is the most common cause of chronic pancreatitis. Genetic disorders, structural abnormalities, and autoimmune processes are other potential causes of chronic pancreatitis.11 Repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis can also contribute to the development of chronic pancreatitis. Over time chronic pancreatitis is associated with the development of fibrosis, obstruction, and tissue atrophy within the pancreas.

When patients progress to chronic pancreatitis, they typically develop chronic abdominal pain. This often leads to the need for chronic pain medications. Patients may develop intermittent acute flares of pancreatitis with associated pain on top of their chronic disease. Patients may also exhibit intermittent nausea and vomiting. Irreversible endocrine dysfunction leads to the loss of insulin secretion. Therefore, patients with chronic pancreatitis often develop diabetes. Finally, exocrine dysfunction leads to a lack of production and secretion of pancreatic enzymes. This is referred to as pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI).12 Patients lose the ability to digest food properly due to the lack of pancreatic enzyme secretion. The inability to digest fat in the GI tract leads to the development of frequent fatty, greasy, foul-smelling bowel movements, referred to as steatorrhea. This lack of fat digestion and absorption also leads to the inability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Therefore, patients are at risk for vitamin A, D, E, and K deficiency. Collectively, these irreversible abnormalities in pancreatic function result in patients becoming extremely malnourished. Overall, chronic pancreatitis is a slowly progressive and often fatal process.


Which medication(s) would you expect the healthcare provider to prescribe for treatment of Mr. Bradley’s pain due to his acute pancreatitis?

Pharmacologic Agents Used in the Management of Pancreatic Disorders


The management of patients with acute pancreatitis mostly involves removal of the cause and treatment of symptoms. Most patients require hospitalization. Oral intake may be withheld to prevent stimulation of the pancreas. Oxygen and IV fluid administration may be required if the patient has difficulty breathing or appears dehydrated.9,10 For patients with gallstone-induced pancreatitis, performance of an endoscopy with a procedure to remove the gallstone from the biliary tract is sometimes required. In some instances, the gallstone will pass out of the biliary tract by itself. Formation of abscesses or pseudocysts may require surgical drainage and antibiotic therapy.

Nutritional Support

The development of acute pancreatitis is associated with high energy consumption. Resuming oral nutritional intake within 24–48 hours of onset is recommended.9,10 Oral intake is preferred; however, enteral nutrition products administered through a feeding tube (also called tube feeding) is an alternate method of providing nutrition if the patient cannot tolerate oral intake. Several different brands of enteral feedings are available; many are discussed in Chapter 24. The choice of these products is tailored based on individual patient needs. The use of orally administered nutrition prevents the GI tract tissue from atrophying and helps maintain the function of the GI tract. This helps to prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream through the GI tract. The use of IV total parenteral nutrition is associated with many more complications such as infections, and electrolyte and blood glucose abnormalities, and therefore its use is generally reserved for patients who will have prolonged periods of time that they cannot receive oral nutrition.

Pharmacologic Treatments

Since abdominal pain is often the most common symptom patients have, the use of IV analgesics is often required. Intravenous acetaminophen may be added to supplement pain control.10 Narcotics, discussed extensively in Chapter 5, are the most commonly used medications in this setting. Examples include morphine, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. The use of patient-controlled analgesia for administration may be preferred, as patients often require frequent doses. Potential adverse effects include sedation, nausea, itching, constipation, and respiratory depression. Patients with acute pancreatitis often have nausea and vomiting, so antiemetic drugs are usually required. Examples include promethazine, prochlorperazine, or ondansetron. IV or rectal (suppository) administration is often required. For patients who are in the intensive care unit, the administration of acid-suppressive drugs, such as histamine-receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors, is required to prevent GI bleeding. Patients who develop pancreatic necrosis with infection may need broad-spectrum IV antibiotics such as imipenem, meropenem, or doripenem.

Since many cases of acute pancreatitis are associated with chronic alcohol use, hospitalization and cessation of alcohol use is required. During this time patients are at risk for alcohol withdrawal. Many hospitals have protocols that are used to screen for and manage alcohol withdrawal. This involves frequent monitoring of the patient’s mental status and vital signs. Haloperidol may need to be administered for treatment of delirium or mental status changes. Patients may develop alcohol withdrawal seizures. Benzodiazepine drugs such as alprazolam, diazepam, or chlordiazepoxide are frequently administered to relieve most symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Patients are also given IV multivitamins, folic acid, and thiamine to prevent complications related to deficiencies in vitamins. If the offending cause of the acute episode is removed, the patient should ultimately recover and be able to go home.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Pain Management

Once patients develop chronic pancreatitis, drug treatment is used primarily to relieve symptoms, promote nutrient absorption, and treat diabetes. Chronic abdominal pain is the most common symptom that patients experience. Patients initially may experience intermittent episodes of intense abdominal pain. These episodes eventually increase in frequency and ultimately progress to continuous pain. Analgesics are commonly used for the management of pain in patients with chronic pancreatitis. The initial use of nonnarcotic medications, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), is usually preferred. Unfortunately, most patients will not get adequate relief with these drugs.

Narcotics are often required to manage chronic pain. Patients should receive scheduled medications around the clock, with additional doses of short-acting drugs for episodes of breakthrough pain. Morphine or oxycodone are commonly used and are available in both long-acting preparations that may require less frequent dosing and short-acting versions that can be used for breakthrough pain. Fentanyl is available as a patch that is administered once every 3 days (72 hours), but there is no corresponding oral preparation. Methadone is another oral option for long-term management. Less potent narcotics, such as tramadol, may also be tried. The use of long-term narcotics may be associated with dependence, constipation, nausea, and delayed gastric emptying. Patients may develop tolerance to narcotics, which may require increases in dosing over time. Patients may ultimately require nerve blocks to manage pain. The use of pancreatic enzymes may help to reduce pain as well as improve maldigestion and nutritional status.


Patients who continue to drink alcohol may experience liver toxicity if they use acetaminophen and may also be at higher risk for GI bleeding if NSAIDs are used.

Pancreatic Enzymes

One of the major complications of chronic pancreatitis is malnutrition. This is directly related to the loss of pancreatic enzyme secretion, or PEI. Lack of pancreatic enzyme activity in the GI tract leads to the inability to digest nutrients, a process known as maldigestion. Maldigestion leads to undigested food and nutrients being present within the GI tract in forms that cannot be absorbed. This is referred to as malabsorption. Normally, digestion of carbohydrates and starches starts upon ingestion, as amylase enzymes present in the saliva begin to break down these molecules. Other enzymes present in the intestinal tract break the molecules into smaller pieces that are readily absorbed in the small intestine. Protein digestion begins in the stomach following exposure to pepsin and gastric acid. Enzymes present in the intestinal wall further break the proteins into smaller molecules to be absorbed. The amylase and protease enzymes that are normally secreted by the pancreas contribute to this digestive process, but as pancreatic function declines, loss of pancreatic amylase and protease does not substantially impair the absorption of carbohydrates and proteins as these other digestive processes can compensate.

Unlike carbohydrates and proteins, up to 90% of fat absorption is facilitated by pancreatic lipases, and loss of pancreatic function significantly affects fat digestion. When pancreatic lipase falls too low, as happens in patients with chronic pancreatitis, fat cannot be digested and absorbed. This leads to loss of fat in the stool and the development of steatorrhea, as well as impaired absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Another major contributor to maldigestion is the loss of pancreatic bicarbonate secretion. Pancreatic enzymes are normally secreted into the duodenum and require a local pH of least 5 in the GI tract to function properly. At a pH of below 5 pancreatic enzymes are inactivated and destroyed by the acid environment. Bicarbonate secretion from the pancreas normally helps neutralize the acidic contents of the stomach and allows the pancreatic enzymes to function appropriately. Since patients with chronic pancreatitis not only have a lack of enzymes but also a loss of bicarbonate secretion from the pancreas, the digestive and absorptive processes are shifted to further down in the small intestine, leading to faster passage of nutrients through the GI tract and further malabsorption.

To help correct maldigestion and malabsorption, pancreatic enzymes can be orally administered with ingested nutrients. This goal of pancreatic enzyme replacement is to simulate the normal digestive process as closely as possible by delivering the enzymes to the duodenum in close proximity to ingested nutrients.12 This ultimately allows the patient to properly digest and absorb nutrients. Oral pancreatic enzyme replacement products are derived from pig pancreatic enzymes (also called pancrelipase) and, much like human enzymes, contain lipases, amylase, and protease. They are available as capsules containing enteric-coated mini-microspheres or micro-tablets, or as immediate-release tablets. Pancreatic enzyme products are discussed in depth in Chapter 19, as they relate to cystic fibrosis.

When initiating pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy for patients with chronic pancreatitis, approximately 40,000–50,000 units of lipase activity should be provided per standard adult meal.12 In children, 500–2,500 units/kg of lipase activity per meal can be used. One-half the standard dose is often used for snacks. Therefore, capsules containing the appropriate amount of lipase activity should be used for each dose. Patients often require more than one capsule per meal. For instance, an adult patient requiring 40,000 units per meal could use two 20,000-unit capsules.

Once pancreatic enzyme therapy is initiated, the patient is monitored for reductions in steatorrhea and improvement in weight gain. Steatorrhea may be significantly reduced or even go away completely in some patients. The patient’s enzyme dose can be adjusted based on the improvement in steatorrhea and the amount of weight gained. Pancreatic enzyme products are generally well tolerated. Patients may experience diarrhea or constipation from the enzymes. At very high doses blood concentrations of uric acid may be elevated. Doses above the recommended maximum daily dose of 10,000 units/kg/day or 2,500 units/kg per meal have been associated with inflammation and scarring of the inside of the intestinal tract, a condition known as fibrosing colonopathy. This adverse effect is rare if doses are kept below this amount. If the patient is on an appropriate dose of enzymes and is not responding by gaining weight or having fewer symptoms related to steatorrhea, this may be potentially due to the pH in the duodenum being too low for the enteric-coated enzyme products to be released. In this case, the addition of an acid-suppressive drug, such as a proton pump inhibitor or histamine2-receptor antagonist (as described in Chapter 20), may be added to the patient’s regimen.12

One last effect that may be achieved by the use of pancreatic enzymes is pain relief. Pain in patients with chronic pancreatitis is thought to be partially due to continuous stimulation of the pancreas by a substance called cholecystokinin. A protein that causes release of cholecystokinin is secreted in the small intestine. This protein is normally destroyed by proteases that are released by the pancreas, so patients who lack proteases, such as those with chronic pancreatitis, are unable to slow the release of cholecystokinin. To restore the process of slowing cholecystokinin release, pancreatic enzymes must be delivered to the duodenum in their active, uncoated form. This necessitates the use of non-enteric-coated products. Thus, non-enteric-coated products may be used for patients with severe pain who have not responded to other medications. If non-enteric-coated products are used, administration of an acid-suppressive drug is required to help minimize destruction of the enzymes by gastric acid. It may not be practical to use non-enteric-coated enzymes, as enteric-coated products generally require administration of fewer capsules and generally result in better symptom improvement and weight gain.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Since a major component of chronic pancreatitis involves maldigestion and malabsorption of fat, patients are at risk for fat-soluble vitamin deficiency. Vitamin preparations that deliver adequate amounts of vitamins A, D, E, and K are required. This may be accomplished though the administration of tablet, capsule, or liquid formulations that are designed specifically to provide higher amounts of these vitamins (Medication Table 23-1; Medication Tables are located at the end of the chapter). These products also often contain other substances, such as B vitamins, folic acid, selenium, and coenzyme Q10. Liquid or chewable formulations may be preferred for children and patients who have difficulty swallowing. Some products are formulated to include different forms of some of the fat-soluble vitamins or may be formulated in a dose form that may enhance absorption. Since products differ in content in formulation, substitution of one for another may not be possible.


Chronic liver disease and subsequent development of cirrhosis is most commonly caused by chronic alcohol abuse or viral hepatitis infection. Complications of cirrhosis can include variceal bleeding, SBP, ascites, and HE. Various drugs may be effective at treating and preventing the complications of cirrhosis but do not correct the underlying liver disease itself. Since patients may be on several medications to treat or prevent their complications, it is important that they know the appropriate ways to use the medications, as well as potential side effects that they may encounter. Likewise, certain medications have roles for use only in the hospital setting. Unfortunately, cirrhosis is largely irreversible.

Like cirrhosis, most cases of acute and chronic pancreatitis are due to chronic alcohol abuse. Drug management of acute pancreatitis is mostly supportive and involves removal of the underlying cause and treatment of symptoms such as pain and nausea. Once patients develop chronic pancreatitis, they lose both endocrine and exocrine function and develop chronic pain. The use of pain medications, such as narcotics, is almost always necessary to treat the chronic pain. Pancreatic enzymes are used orally to treat PEI by providing replacement enzymes to help food digestion. In some instances, the use of pancreatic enzymes may also help to improve pain. Patients may also require supplementation with fat-soluble vitamins. Unfortunately, chronic pancreatitis is irreversible, and patients will require long-term drug therapy.


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American Association of the Study of Liver Disease Practice Guidelines,


  1. Which medication(s) would be preferred as initial therapy to help remove excess fluid in patients with ascites?

  2. For a patient with hepatic encephalopathy caused by spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, which drug regimen would be prescribed as initial treatment for this infection? Why would these drugs be chosen?

  3. Mr. Bradley requires administration of pancreatic enzymes to treat his malnutrition and malabsorption. What are the three major groups of enzymes found in pancreatic enzyme replacement products? What does each do?

  4. How should Mr. Bradley be instructed to take his pancreatic enzyme replacement product?

  5. Why do encapsulated pancreatic enzyme products require enteric coatings?



Representative Medications Used in the Management of Hepatic and Pancreatic Disorders13a


Generic Name

Brand Name



Usual Adult Dosage


Beta Blockers

Carvedilol (kar-VE-dil-ol)




3.125–25 mg twice daily

Non-selective agent with alpha receptor blocking properties

Propranolol (proe PRAN oh lole)

Inderal, Inderal LA, INNOPRAN XL



20–240 mg orally in divided doses

Nonselective agent; start with immediate release and then switch to long acting to improve adherence

Nadolol (NAY doe lole)




20–320 mg orally in divided doses

Nonselective agent


Furosemide (fyoor OH se mide)




40–600 mg orally or IV in 2–3 divided doses

May cause low potassium and magnesium levels and dehydration

Spironolactone (spire on oh LAK tone)

Aldactone, Carospir



100–400 mg orally once daily

Potassium-sparing agent; may cause gynecomastia in male patients

Antibiotics (selected)

Metronidazole (me troe NI da zole)




1,000–1,500 mg orally in 3-4 divided doses

Significant interaction with alcohol; may cause nausea and metallic taste; use 500-mg tablets

Rifaximin (ri FAX i men)



1,100 mg orally in 2divided doses

Poorly absorbed; much more expensive than other options; 200-mg or 550-mg tablets

Ceftriaxone (sef try AX one)




1–2 g IV once daily

Dosed once daily; no adjustment for kidney disease; caution with severe penicillin allergy

Cefotaxime (sef oh TAKS eem)




2–8 g IV in 2–3 divided doses

Need to adjust dose for severe kidney disease; caution with severe penicillin allergy

Other agents

Octreotide (ok TREE oh tide)




50 mcg/hr

Requires continuous IV infusion for 3–5 days; may cause hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, constipation, and dizziness

25% Albumin (al BYOO min)




1–1.5 g/kg or 6–8 g/L of fluid removed

Very expensive; indicated for SBP and large-volume paracentesis

Lactulose (LAK tyoo lose)

Enulose, Kristalose, Constulose



20–60 g 3–4 times daily

10 g/15 mL solution or 10-g or 20-g powder packet; may also be compounded as a retention enema (300 mL mixed with 700 mL water or saline)

Pancreatic enzyme replacement products (selected)

Pancrelipase (pan cre LI pase)



3,000 units per 120 ml formula (infants up to 12 months)

Max of 2,500 units/kg/meal or 10,000 units/kg/day for ages great than 12 months

Capsules with enteric-coated spheres; 3,000, 6,000, 12,000, 24,000, 36,000 lipase units per capsule



2,600 units per 120 ml formula (infants up to 12 months)

Max of 2,500 units/kg/meal or 10,000 units/kg/day for ages great than 12 months

Capsules containing enteric-coated microtablets; 2,600, 4,200, 10,500, 16,800, 21,000, 37,000 lipase unit strengths



3,000 units per 120 ml formula (infants up to 12 months)

Max of 2,500 units/kg/meal or 10,000 units/kg/day for ages great than 12 months

Capsules with enteric-coated beads; 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 25,000, and 40,000 lipase unit strengths



4,000 units per 120 ml formula (infants up to 12 months)

Max of 2,500 units/kg/meal or 10,000 units/kg/day for ages great than 12 months

Capsules with bicarbonate-buffered enteric-coated microspheres; 4,000, 8,000, 16,000, 24,000 lipase units per capsule




500–2,500 units/kg per meal

Immediate-release tablet with 10,440 or 20,880 lipase units per tablet

Fat-soluble vitamins


DEKAs Essential


0.5 mL daily or 1 capsule daily

Liquid, capsules


1–2 mL daily or 1–2 tablets daily

Liquid or softgel capsules

MVW Complete


1–2 capsules or tablets daily, or 0.5–1 mL daily

Softgels, chewable tablets (bubblegum, grape, or orange), pediatric drops

IV = intravenous; NA = none available; SBP = spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.


Pronunciations have been adapted with permission from USP Dictionary of USAN and International Drug Names (USP Dictionary) © 2022.