Role of N-acetylcysteine in non-acetaminophen-related acute liver failure: an updated meta-analysis and systematic review

Authors Saqib Walayat, Hasan Shoaib, Muhammad Asghar, MinChul Kim, Sonu Dhillon.


Background The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommends that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be beneficial in non-acetaminophen-related drug-induced liver injury. A subsequent review and analysis reported the current evidence to be inconclusive. Herein, we present an updated review and meta-analysis.

Methods We evaluated prospective, retrospective and randomized controlled trials that compared outcomes in patients of all ages with acute liver failure (defined as abnormal liver enzymes along with elevated international normalized ratio >1.5, with or without hepatic encephalopathy) receiving NAC with the outcomes in a control group. The primary outcome was to compare the overall survival in the 2 groups. Secondary outcomes included difference in length of hospital stay, transplant-free survival, and post-transplant survival.

Results Seven studies (N=883) that met the inclusion criteria were included in this analysis. The mean age of patients in the NAC group was 21.22 years compared with 23.62 years in the control group. The odds of overall survival were significantly higher in the NAC group than in controls (odds ratio [OR] 1.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3-2.41). Post-transplant survival (OR 2.44, 95%CI 1.11-5.37) and transplant-free survival were also better in the NAC group than in the control group (OR 2.85, 95%CI 2.11-3.85). Patients in the control group had statistically significant odds of a longer inpatient stay (mean difference 7.79, 95%CI 6.93-8.66).

Conclusion In patients with non-acetaminophen-related acute liver failure, NAC significantly improves overall survival, post-transplant survival and transplant-free survival while decreasing the overall length of hospital stay.

Keywords N-acetylcysteine, acute liver failure, drug-induced liver injury, acetaminophen

Ann Gastroenterol 2021; 34 (2): 235-240

Original Articles