Background: The association of cardiac and liver disorders has not been extensively outlined in the literature.
Methods: A survey of the MEDLINE database was performed to assess the current status of research regarding the association between cardiac and liver disorders.
Results: Combined cardiac and hepatic disorders occur in 3 different settings: heart diseases affecting the liver, liver diseases affecting the heart, and cardiac and hepatic disorders with joint etiology. The spectrum of heart diseases affecting the liver includes mild alterations of liver function tests in heart failure, cardiogenic ischemic hepatitis, congestive liver fibrosis, and cardiac cirrhosis. The liver diseases affecting the heart include complications of cirrhosis such as hepatopulmonary syndrome, portopulmonary hypertension, pericardial effusion, and cirrhotic cardiomyopathy as well as noncirrhotic cardiac disorders such as high-output failure caused by intrahepatic arteriovenous fistulae. Cardiac and hepatic disorders with joint etiology include infectious, metabolic, immune, vasculitic, and toxic disorders. We propose a practical approach to a diagnostic workup of combined cardiac and hepatic disorders based on recognizing the sequence of appearance of the cardiac and liver disease, presence of features of a multisystem disease, and presence of pathognomonic features. The evaluation of combined cardiac and hepatic disorders takes into consideration the expected benefit of treatment and the risks related to invasive procedures. Accordingly, investigations can be limited to ancillary tests for patients with congested liver and mild alterations of liver function tests, in cardiogenic ischemic hepatitis, patients with cardiac cirrhosis who are proposed for conservative treatment, and multisystem disease involving the heart and the liver. Conversely, comprehensive investigations are recommended when invasive therapeutic interventions are considered for the treatment of hepatopulmonary syndrome, portopulmonary hypertension, or arteriovenous fistulae.
Conclusion: Classification of a patient to any of the 3 categories-heart diseases affecting the liver, liver diseases affecting the heart, and cardiac and hepatic disorders with joint etiology-permits the physician to narrow the span of the possible diagnoses and allows for a more simple workup.