Background & aims: Increased portal blood flow represents a compensatory mechanism preventing hepatic hypoxia after ethanol consumption. In addition, alcohol increases hepatic vascular resistance. Thus, ethanol consumption, by increasing hepatic vascular resistance and portal flow, may worsen portal hypertension in patients with cirrhosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of ethanol consumption on hepatic hemodynamics in patients with alcohol-induced cirrhosis.
Methods: Measurements of hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG), azygos blood flow, hepatic blood flow, heart rate, and arterial pressure were obtained in 16 patients with alcohol-induced cirrhosis and portal hypertension before and after random administration of a noncaloric fruit drink (250 mL, n = 7) or of an identical beverage plus 0.5 g/kg of ethanol (n = 9).
Results: Vehicle caused no effects. By contrast, ethanol increased HVPG (P < 0.0001). The increase in HVPG was maximum at 15 minutes and remained significant at 45 minutes (P < 0.05 vs. vehicle). Ethanol increased azygos blood flow (P < 0.05) without changes in hepatic blood flow. Heart rate and arterial pressure slightly increased.
Conclusions: Oral ethanol consumption increases portal pressure and portocollateral blood flow in patients with alcohol-induced cirrhosis. These findings suggest that even moderate alcohol consumption worsens the portal-hypertensive syndrome and, therefore, may increase the risk of variceal bleeding in patients with alcohol-induced cirrhosis.