Review question/objective What is the impact of physical and psychological factors on health-related quality of life in adult patients diagnosed with liver cirrhosis?
Background All chronic liver diseases stimulate a degree of repetitive hepatocyte injury that alters the normal liver architecture and ends in cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma secondary to livercirrhosis are a major public health burden, reporting increasing mortality and morbidity both in Australia and globally. The four leading causes of cirrhosis include harmful alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis B and C and metabolic syndromes related to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity. A cirrhotic liver is characterized by the presence of regenerative nodules surrounded by fibrous bands that inhibit the passing of molecules between blood and functional units of liver hepatocytes, leading to liver dysfunction. Additionally, the presence of fibrous bands disrupts the normal vascular architecture, increasing resistance within the liver sinusoids and contributing to increased portal vein pressure.
The early stages of cirrhosis are referred to as compensated liver disease with no reported symptoms or evidence of impaired liver function. However, the signs and symptoms of liver failure, as well as the mortality rate, increase as the severity of cirrhosis increases. Transition from compensated to decompensated cirrhosis is marked by one or more physiological changes. The physiological changes include increased portal vein pressure, impaired synthetic function, electrolyte imbalance and malnourishment. These physiological changes trigger the development of physical signs and symptoms and impact on the psychological wellbeing of the individual living with cirrhosis. The physical signs and symptoms include esophageal varices, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, jaundice, irregular sleep patterns, muscle cramps, pruritus, fatigue, impaired mobility, breathlessness, abdominal discomfort, gastrointestinal symptoms, change of body image and pitting edema. Psychological symptoms include stress, depression and anxiety.