Current Practice of Branched Chain Amino Acids Administration in Patients with Liver Cirrhosis: A Physician Survey
Dr. Vaishali Bhargava,
Medical Advisor, Established Pharmaceuticals Divsion, Abbott India Limited,
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
Introduction: Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) is prevalent in about 65-90% of patients with liver disorders. PEM is usually associated with poor quality of life, high risk of complications, morbidity and mortality, and longer duration of hospital stays. PEM is also associated with decreased skeletal muscle mass and reduced levels of serum albumin and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Therefore, BCAAs are recommended as nutritional therapy in various liver disorders.
Aim: To understand the current practice of BCAA use in patients with liver cirrhosis in India.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based survey was conducted pan India involving 100 gastroenterologists over a period of four months from September 2019 to December 2019. Each physician participated in the survey after verbal consent. Ample time was given for completion of the questionnaires.
Results: Out of 83 participating physicians, nearly 3/4th considered liver cirrhosis as the most common Gastrointestinal (GI) disorder where nutrition is important in patient management. Malnutrition was commonly observed in patients with cirrhosis by nearly over 80% physicians and was most common in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. Weight loss and loss of appetite can be early signs of sarcopenia as these were common profiles observed in patients with malnutrition. Total 51.8% physicians considered BCAA administration in all Child-Pugh class patients. The practice of BCAA treatment with regards to its dose and duration highly varied for patients with cirrhosis, Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE), and Liver Transplantation (LT). Proteins from vegetarian source (50.6%) and BCAA supplementation (96.4%) were considered as major treatments for HE patients. Majority of the physicians reported that BCAA administration improved quality of life (52.4%), reduced HE episodes (49.4%), improved muscle mass (50%), and reduced hospitalisation rates (49.4%) in 20-40% of their patients. In all, 92.8% of physicians suggested that early administration of oral BCAA can prolong the waiting period for LT.
Conclusion: Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) is an integral part of nutritional management in patients with liver cirrhosis in India. Further studies are required to guide the decision on dose and duration of BCAA treatment in the management of cirrhosis.