Objective: Impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes are frequently observed in cirrhosis. Overt diabetes was reported to affect long term survival of cirrhotic patients by increasing the risk of hepatocellular failure, without increasing the risk of diabetes-associated cardiovascular events.
Methods: We evaluated the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in 122 patients with cirrhosis, subdivided according to their glucose tolerance. The following parameters were considered: arterial pressure, peripheral vascular disease (ankle to brachial pressure ratio), ischemic heart disease, microalbuminuria, retinopathy. The prevalence of abnormal findings was compared with that observed in 60 randomly selected patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes and in 40 controls.
Results: Noninsulin-dependent diabetic patients and patients with cirrhosis and diabetes were comparable for age, metabolic control, and smoking habits; the duration of diabetes was 5 yr longer for noninsulin-dependent diabetes. In cirrhosis, the prevalence of micro- and peripheral macroangiopathy, as well as coronary heart disease, was not different in relation to glucose tolerance, it was comparable to that of controls, and significantly lower than that observed in non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
Conclusions: Cirrhotic patients, even in the presence of overt diabetes, are at low risk of cardiovascular disease. The low prevalence may be related to shorter duration of diabetic disease, also in relation to reduced life expectancy, as well as to liver disease-induced abnormalities protecting the cardiovascular system from atherosclerosis.