The hyperdynamic circulation in cirrhosis: an overview

Pharmacol Ther. 2001 Mar;89(3):221-31. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(01)00124-3.


The hyperdynamic circulation begins in the portal venous bed as a consequence of portal hypertension due to the increased resistance to flow from altered hepatic vascular morphology of chronic liver disease. Dilatation of the portal vein is associated with increased blood flow, as well as the opening up or formation of veno-venous shunts and splenomegaly. At the same time, portal hypertension leads to subclinical sodium retention resulting in expansion of all body fluid compartments, including the systemic and central blood volumes. This blood volume expansion is associated with vasorelaxation, as manifested by suppression of the renin--angiotensin--aldosterone system, initially only when the patient is in the supine position. Acute volume depletion in such patients results in normalisation of the hyperdynamic circulation, whilst acute volume expansion results in exaggerated natriuresis. As liver disease progresses and liver function deteriorates, the systemic hyperdynamic circulation becomes more manifest with activation of the renin--angiotensin--aldosterone system. The presence of vasodilatation in the presence of highly elevated levels of circulating vasoconstrictors may be explained by vascular hyporesponsiveness due to increased levels of vasodilators such as nitric oxide, as well as the development of an autonomic neuropathy. However, vasodilatation is not generalised, but confined to certain vascular beds, such as the splanchnic and pulmonary beds. Even here, the status may change with the natural history of the disease, since even portal blood flow may decrease and become reversed with advanced disease. The failure of these changes to reverse following liver transplantation may be due to remodelling and angiogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Circulation / physiology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Blood Volume / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal / complications
  • Liver / blood supply*
  • Liver / physiopathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / therapy
  • Portal Vein / physiopathology*
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / physiology
  • Vasodilation