Waleed Al Hamoudi, Samuel S. Lee
Liver cirrhosis is associated with a wide range of cardiovascular abnormalities. These abnormalities include hyperdynamic circulation characterized by an increase in cardiac output and a decrease in peripheral vascular resistance. Despite the increased cardiac output, impaired ventricular contractility in response to both physiological and pharmacological stimuli has been described. Other cardiac abnormalities include structural changes including enlargement or hypertrophy of different cardiac chambers and electrophysiological changes such as QT prolongation. This constellation of cardiac abnormalities is termed cirrhotic cardiomyopathy. The pathogenic mechanisms of cirrhotic cardiomyopathy are multifactorial and include cardiomyocyte plasma membrane physico-chemical changes, attenuated stimulatory pathways, and enhanced activity of inhibitory systems. Accumulating evidence suggests that cirrhotic cardiomyopathy plays a major role in the pathogenesis of cardiac dysfunction following liver transplantation or transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt placement. Recent research also strongly suggests that cirrhotic cardiomyopathy contributes to the pathogenesis of hepatorenal syndrome, especially following infections such as spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Treatment of this syndrome remains largely empirical. Successful liver transplantation is thought to improve all the organ-related hemodynamic dysfunctions, including hepatopulmonary syndrome, cerebral hypoperfusion, hepatorenal syndrome, and cirrhotic cardiomyopathy. The prolonged QT interval normalizes following liver transplantation. Thus, liver transplantation appears to be the ultimate treatment for the cardiovascular complications of cirrhosis.
Key words. Cirrhosis, cardiac complications, heart failure, QT interval, diastolic function, systolic function