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Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Jun;39(6):507-15. Epub 2007 Mar 23.

Cirrhotic cardiomyopathy.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University of Rome, Italy.


Decompensated liver cirrhosis is characterized by a peripheral vasodilation with a low-resistance hyperdynamic circulation. The sustained increase of cardiac work load associated with such a condition may result in an inconstant and often subclinical series of heart abnormalities, constituting a new clinical entity known as "cirrhotic cardiomyopathy". Cirrhotic cardiomyopathy is variably associated with baseline increase in cardiac output, defective myocardial contractility and lowered systo-diastolic response to inotropic and chronotropic stimuli, down-regulated beta-adrenergic function, slight histo-morphological changes, and impaired electric "recovery" ability of ventricular myocardium. Cirrhotic cardiomyopathy is usually clinically latent or mild, likely because the peripheral vasodilation significantly reduces the left ventricle after-load, thus actually "auto-treating" the patient and masking any severe manifestation of heart failure. In cirrhotic patients, the presence of cirrhotic cardiomyopathy may become unmasked and clinically evident by certain treatment interventions that increase the effective blood volume and cardiac pre-load, including surgical or transjugular intrahepatic porto-systemic shunts, peritoneo-venous shunts (LeVeen) and orthotopic liver transplantation. Under these circumstances, an often transient overt congestive heart failure may develop, with increased cardiac output as well as right atrial, pulmonary artery and capillary wedge pressures.

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