The rational use of albumin in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. A Delphi study for the attainment of a consensus on prescribing standards.

Gentilini P, Bernardi M, Bolondi L, Craxi A, Gasbarrinie G, Ideo G, Laffi G, La Villa G, Salerno F, Ventura E, Pulazzini A, Segantini L, Romanelli RG.
Dig Liver Dis. 2004 Aug;36(8):539-46.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Florence, Vale Morgagni 85, 50134 Florence, Italy. p.gentilini@dfc.unifi.it

BACKGROUND: Ascites is one of the most frequent severe complications in patients with liver cirrhosis. The treatment of this chronic disease usually requires the prolonged use of albumin, frequently continued even after patients' discharge from the hospital. AIMS: Aim of the study was to define a consensus among Italian physicians with regard to the use of albumin in patients with decompensated cirrhosis and ascites. METHODS: The study adopted the Delphi technique to conduct the consensus activities. All controversial issues related to the use of albumin were identified by the experts' board and proposed to the 68 participating hepatology centres through two subsequent questionnaires. The questionnaires, returned by the specialists involved, were collected and the answers classified to verify the elements on which a consensus was reached. RESULTS: The home use of albumin can help to improve the patient's general conditions and well-being. About 77% of the experts involved considered likely that albumin administration could shorten hospital stays or could reduce the number of hospital admissions. The results of the study, along with a socioeconomic analysis, were presented to the Italian Drug Commission, which subsequently removed the specific hypoalbuminemia level as a prerequisite for having the drug reimbursed by the National Health Service. CONCLUSIONS: For an outpatient prescription, the hypoalbuminemia limit of 2.5 g/dl or less is not sufficient, while the decision whether to administer the drug requires the evaluation of patient's overall clinical conditions as an essential criterion for the prescription of a home treatment with albumin.