Background: Hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare complication of liver diseases of different etiologies and may indicate a poor prognosis. Therefore, a simple non-invasive screening method to detect HPS would be highly desirable. In this study pulse oximetry was evaluated to identify patients with HPS.
Methods: In 316 consecutive patients with liver cirrhosis (n = 245), chronic hepatitis (n = 69) or non-cirrhotic portal hypertension (n = 2) arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) was determined using a pulse oximeter. In patients with SaO2 < or = 92% in supine position and/or a decrease of > or = 4% after change from supine to upright position further diagnostic procedures were performed, including contrast-enhanced echocardiography and perfusion lung scan.
Results: Seventeen patients (5.4%) had a pathological SaO2. Four patients (1.3%) had HPS. HPS patients had a significant lower mean SaO2 in supine (89.7%, SD 5.4 vs. 96.0%, SD 2.3; p = 0.003) and upright position (84.3%, SD 5.0 vs. 96.0%, SD 2.4; p = 0.001) and had a lower mean PaO2 (56.2 mm Hg, SD 15.2 vs. 71.2 mm Hg, SD 20.2; p = 0.02) as compared to patients without HPS. The mean deltaSaO2 (difference between supine and upright position) was 5.50 (SD 7) in HPS patients compared to non-HPS patients who showed no change (p = 0.001). There was a strong correlation between shunt volume and the SaO2 values (R = -0.94).
Conclusion: Arterial SaO2 determination in supine and upright position is a useful non-invasive screening test for HPS and correlates well with the intrapulmonary shunt volume.