Objectives: Abnormalities in cardiac function have been reported in liver cirrhosis, suggesting a latent cardiomyopathy in these patients. In this study we investigated cardiac function in cirrhotic patients and in controls.
Methods: A total of 20 cirrhotic patients without previous or ongoing ascites, 20 cirrhotic patients with moderate-to-severe ascites, and 10 healthy controls were studied by two-dimensional Doppler echocardiography. Cardiac dimensions and left and right ventricular function were evaluated. The left ventricular geometric pattern was calculated according to Ganau's criteria. Diastolic function was evaluated by the peak filling velocity of E wave and A wave, E/A ratio, and deceleration time of E wave. The pulmonary systolic arterial pressure was also estimated in patients with tricuspid insufficiency.
Results: Right and left atrium and right ventricle diameters were significantly enlarged in cirrhotic patients versus controls. E/A ratio was decreased (p < 0.05) in patients with ascites (0.9 +/- 0.2) versus those without ascites (1.3 +/- 0.4) and controls (1.3 +/- 1). The estimated pulmonary systolic arterial pressure was slightly elevated in patients with ascites (35 +/- 5 mm Hg, six patients) versus those with no ascites (28 +/- 5, 10 patients) and controls (27 +/- 8, 6 controls, analysis of variance, p < 0.05). The pattern of left ventricular geometry was normal in the majority of patients. Nitrite and nitrate levels were increased in cirrhotics irrespective of the presence of ascites.
Conclusions: Liver cirrhosis is associated with enlarged right cardiac chambers. Diastolic dysfunction and mild pulmonary hypertension are evident in cirrhotic patients with ascites. These changes do not depend on variations in the left ventricular geometry.