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J Hepatol. 1992 Sep;16(1-2):177-83.

Peripheral and cardiovascular autonomic impairment in chronic liver disease: prevalence and relation to hepatic function.

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Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, United Kingdom.


We have evaluated autonomic function using standard cardiovascular tests and a test of peripheral autonomic denervation, the acetylcholine sweatspot test, in 104 patients with biopsy proven chronic liver disease and 35 age- and sex-matched controls. Cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction was significantly more frequent in advanced liver disease compared with early liver disease (71.8% Child B or C vs. 39.7% Child A; p < 0.0006), and a strong correlation between the number of abnormal tests and Child-Pugh score could be demonstrated (Rs = 0.5; p < 0.0001). On multiple logistic regression analysis, cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction was related to age and to Child-Pugh score and occurred independently of the aetiology of liver disease. Peripheral autonomic denervation was found in 39% of patients, was significantly associated with cardiovascular abnormalities (p < 0.009) and correlated with the number of abnormal cardiovascular tests in each patient (Rs = 0.48; p < 0.0001). In chronic liver disease, the prevalence and severity of cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction is related to the severity of hepatic dysfunction and is independent of aetiology, suggesting a common pathogenetic basis related to hepatic damage; the association with peripheral autonomic denervation indicates that at least some of the abnormalities may be due to a true autonomic neuropathy. The possible significance of these findings to the complications of cirrhosis is discussed.

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