World J Gastroenterol. 2022 Dec 21;28(47):6662-6688. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v28.i47.6662.
In recent years, humanity has been confronted with a global pandemic due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has caused an unprecedented health and economic crisis worldwide. Apart from the respiratory symptoms, which are considered the principal manifestations of COVID-19, it has been recognized that COVID-19 constitutes a systemic inflammatory process affecting multiple organ systems. Across the spectrum of organ involvement in COVID-19, acute liver injury (ALI) has been gradually gaining increasing attention by the international scientific community. COVID-19 associated liver impairment can affect a considerable proportion of COVID-19 patients and seems to correlate with the severity of the disease course. Indeed, COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU) run a greater risk of developing ALI due to the severity of their clinical condition and in the context of multi-organ failure. The putative pathophysiological mechanisms of COVID-19 induced ALI in ICU patients remain poorly understood and appear to be multifactorial in nature. Several theories have been proposed to explain the occurrence of ALI in the ICU setting, such as hypoperfusion and ischemia due to hemodynamic instability, passive liver congestion as a result of congestive heart failure, ischemia-reperfusion injury, hypoxia due to respiratory failure, mechanical ventilation itself, sepsis and septic shock, cytokine storm, endotheliitis with concomitant coagulopathy, drug-induced liver injury, parenteral nutrition and direct cytopathic viral effect. It should be noted that no specific therapy for COVID-19 induced ALI exists. Therefore, the therapeutic approach lies in preventive measures and is exclusively supportive once ALI ensues. The aim of the current review is to scrutinize the existing evidence on COVID-19 associated ALI in ICU patients, explore its clinical implications, shed light on the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms and propose potential therapeutic approaches. Ongoing research on the particular scientific field will further elucidate the pathophysiology behind ALI and address unresolved issues, in the hope of mitigating the tremendous health consequences imposed by COVID-19 on ICU patients.