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Intravenous albumin in patients with cirrhosis: evaluation of practice patterns and secular trends of usage in Ontario 2000 to 2017


Background — Intravenous (IV) albumin has evidence-based indications in cirrhosis that are limited in most guidelines to spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), type 1 hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) and large volume paracentesis (LVP).

This study aimed to describe the trends of IV albumin usage in patients with cirrhosis at the population level and evaluate indications for IV albumin in the hospital setting.

Methods — A retrospective study identified albumin infusions in healthcare data from Ontario, Canada between 2000 and 2017 in those with and without cirrhosis. Annual rates of IV albumin by cirrhosis status were calculated per 10,000 person-years (PY) and described using Poisson regression and rate ratios. Secondly, patients with cirrhosis receiving IV albumin while hospitalized at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) in 2017 were identified and underwent detailed chart abstraction to determine the reason for IV albumin administration.

Results — The overall rate of provincial IV albumin usage doubled over the study period (2000: 8.4/10,000 PY versus 2017: 16.3/10,000 PY; rate ratio 1.94, 95% confidence interval 1.90 to 1.99, P <0.001). The majority of albumin was used during hospitalization (88%) and 22% was used in patients with cirrhosis. At KHSC, there were134 admissions where a patient with cirrhosis received IV albumin. Of these, 49% of prescriptions were for evidence-based indications (LVP 30%, type 1 HRS 10%, SBP 10%), whereas other indications included non-HRS renal failure, hypovolemia and sepsis.

Conclusion — IV albumin use has doubled over two decades and is frequently used in hospitalized patients with cirrhosis with only 50% being prescribed for evidence-based indications. These results highlight the impact of cirrhosis on albumin use and highlight potential quality improvement opportunities.



Rodrigues DM, Djerboua M, Flemming JA. J Can Assoc Gastroenterol. 2021; 4(4):179-85. Epub 2020 Dec 4.

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