Background/aims: Autonomic and cardiac dysfunction have been reported in patients with cirrhosis. We studied left ventricular and autonomic function in 20 patients with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cirrhosis.
Methods: Autonomic function was assessed by a standard battery of cardiovascular reflex tests. Supine exercise radionuclide ventriculography was used to assess the cardiac response to exercise.
Results: Exercise capacity was reduced in all patients in association with marked chronotropic incompetence (peak heart rates 120.5 +/- 6 bpm). Unlike normal subjects there was no increase in left ventricular ejection fraction on exercise. Stroke volume increased by 23 +/- 6%, mediated by an increase in end-diastolic.volume of > 20%. Cardiac output was subnormal at maximal exercise, increasing by only 96 +/- 14% and 97 +/- 11% in alcoholic and non-alcoholic groups respectively. The majority (83%) of our patients had autonomic reflex abnormalities.
Conclusions: Patients with cirrhosis of alcohol and non-alcohol related aetiologies have significantly impaired cardiovascular responses to exercise, which are similar to those of a denervated heart. This may have important clinical implications for the ability of these patients to withstand cardiovascular stress.