Why does my patient with cirrhosis have a normal serum albumin?

The finding of normal serum albumin in cirrhotic patients is not at all uncommon. In fact, in a meta-analysis involving 8 published articles, the sensitivity of serum albumin (< 3.5 g/dL) in cirrhosis was only 45% (1). It turns out that in many patients with cirrhosis, the synthetic ability of liver with respect to albumin appears well preserved until more advanced stages of liver dysfunction develop (2). So don’t exclude cirrhosis just because serum albumin is normal.

1. Udell JA, Wang CS, Tinmouth J et al. Does this patient with liver disease have cirrhosis? JAMA 2012;307:832-842.

2. Ballmer PE, Washe D. McNurlan M, et al. Albumin synthesis rates in cirrhosis: correlation with Child-Turcotte classification. Hepatology 1993;18:292-297.

Why does my patient with cirrhosis have a normal serum albumin?

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