Eur J Intern Med. 2023 Jul 7:S0953-6205(23)00232-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2023.07.003. Online ahead of print.
Albumin is the most abundant circulating protein and provides about 70% of the plasma oncotic power. The molecule also carries many other biological functions (binding, transport and detoxification of endogenous and exogenous compounds, antioxidation, and modulation of inflammatory and immune responses). Hypoalbuminemia is a frequent finding in many diseases, representing usually only a biomarker of poor prognosis rather than a primary pathophysiological event. Despite that, albumin is prescribed in many conditions based on the assumption that correction of hypoalbuminemia would lead to clinical benefits for the patients. Unfortunately, many of these indications are not supported by scientific evidence (or have been even disproved), so that a large part of albumin use is nowadays still inappropriate. Decompensated cirrhosis is the clinical area where albumin administration has been extensively studied and solid recommendations can be made. Besides prevention and treatment of acute complications, long-term albumin administration in patients with ascites has emerged in the last decade has a potential new disease-modifying treatment. In non-hepatological settings, albumin is widely used for fluid resuscitation in sepsis and critical illnesses, with no clear superiority over crystalloids. In many other conditions, scientific evidence supporting albumin prescription is weak or even absent. Thus, given its high cost and limited availability, action is needed to avoid the use of albumin for inappropriate and futile indications to ensure its availability in those conditions for which albumin has been demonstrated to have a real effectiveness and an advantage for the patient.