EUH Morning Report: In patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis, does steroid therapy increase the risk of GI bleeding compared to no use of steroids?

The Bottom Line: For patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis, there isn’t literature to answer the question of whether steroid therapy increases risk of GI bleeding compared to no use of steroids. For patients with non-acute alcoholic liver disease who do not have concomitant GI bleeding., use of steroids does not appear to increase risk of GI bleeding when compared to placebo or no intervention.


O’Shea RS, Dasarathy S, McCullough AJ, et al. Alcoholic liver disease. Hepatology. 2010 Jan;51(1):307-328. PMID: 20034030. doi: 10.1002/hep.23258

Comment on above article by O’Shea, Dasarathy, and McCullough: Singal AK. Comments on AASLD practice guidelines for alcoholic liver disease. Hepatology. 2010 May;51(5):1860-1861. PMID: 20432268. doi: 10.1002/hep.23605

Rambaldi A, Saconato HH, Christensen E, Thorlund K, Wetterslev J, Gluud C. Systematic review: glucocorticosteroids for alcoholic hepatitis — a Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group systematic review with meta-analyses and trial sequential analyses of randomized clinical trials. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jun;27(12):1167-1178. PMID: 18363896. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2008.03685.x

References were found in DynaMed Plus. See DynaMed Plus → alcoholic liver disease → treatment → medications → medication to treat acute inflammation for patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis → steroids

Summary of evidence on whether steroid therapy increases the risk of GI bleeding compared to no use of steroids in patients with alcoholic hepatitis (not acute alcoholic hepatitis):

DynaMed Plus states, “efficacy of steroids has not been evaluated in patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis and concomitant…gastrointestinal bleeding,” an “exclusion criteria in many of the early studies of alcoholic hepatitis.”

Only one of the systematic reviews cited in DynaMed Plus on use of steroids versus placebo or no intervention mentioned bleeding as an outcome measure. It states, “Combining the results of four trials providing data demonstrated no significant effects of glucocorticosteroids on…variceal bleeding….Combining the results of the eight trials reporting adverse events demonstrated a significantly higher proportion of patients with adverse events in the glucocorticosteroid group (RR 3.63, 95% CI 1.95–6.76).” The glucocorticosteroids group of 239 patients had “one suspicious of gastrointestinal bleeding.”


About Lisa

I have been a Clinical Informationist (aka Medical Librarian) for Emory University since September 2013. Prior to that, I was a Medical Librarian for Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) from March 2007 to August 2013 and served its DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, Caylor School of Nursing, and allied health programs. From January 2002 - March 2007, I served the Medical Assisting (MA), Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapy Assistant, Radiologic Technologist, and Nursing programs at South College in Knoxville, Tennessee. I graduated from The University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences with a Master of Science degree in December 2000.
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