Abdominal contributions to cardiorenal dysfunction in congestive heart failure

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Aug 6;62(6):485-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2013.04.070. Epub 2013 Jun 7.


Current pathophysiological models of congestive heart failure unsatisfactorily explain the detrimental link between congestion and cardiorenal function. Abdominal congestion (i.e., splanchnic venous and interstitial congestion) manifests in a substantial number of patients with advanced congestive heart failure, yet is poorly defined. Compromised capacitance function of the splanchnic vasculature and deficient abdominal lymph flow resulting in interstitial edema might both be implied in the occurrence of increased cardiac filling pressures and renal dysfunction. Indeed, increased intra-abdominal pressure, as an extreme marker of abdominal congestion, is correlated with renal dysfunction in advanced congestive heart failure. Intriguing findings provide preliminary evidence that alterations in the liver and spleen contribute to systemic congestion in heart failure. Finally, gut-derived hormones might influence sodium homeostasis, whereas entrance of bowel toxins into the circulatory system, as a result of impaired intestinal barrier function secondary to congestion, might further depress cardiac as well as renal function. Those toxins are mainly produced by micro-organisms in the gut lumen, with presumably important alterations in advanced heart failure, especially when renal function is depressed. Therefore, in this state-of-the-art review, we explore the crosstalk between the abdomen, heart, and kidneys in congestive heart failure. This might offer new diagnostic opportunities as well as treatment strategies to achieve decongestion in heart failure, especially when abdominal congestion is present. Among those currently under investigation are paracentesis, ultrafiltration, peritoneal dialysis, oral sodium binders, vasodilator therapy, renal sympathetic denervation and agents targeting the gut microbiota.

Keywords: ADHF; ANP; CHF; IAP; acute decompensated heart failure; atrial natriuretic peptide; cAMP; congestive heart failure; cyclic adenosine monophosphate; gut; intra-abdominal pressure; microcirculation; splanchnic circulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiopathology*
  • Cardio-Renal Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Cardio-Renal Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Cardio-Renal Syndrome / therapy
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation
  • Splanchnic Circulation / physiology*