Evidence of functional and structural cardiac abnormalities in cirrhotic patients with and without ascites

Hepatology. 1997 Nov;26(5):1131-7. doi: 10.1002/hep.510260507.


Cirrhosis is associated with cardiovascular abnormalities. Scanty information is available as to whether these include left ventricle diastolic dysfunction and wall thickness increase. To this aim in 27 cirrhotic patients with tense ascites, 17 cirrhotic patients with previous episodes of ascites (not actual), and 11 controls we investigated by echocardiography and echocolor Doppler left ventricle diastolic function (E wave, A wave, E/A ratio, deceleration time of E wave), systolic function (ejection fraction), and wall thickness (left ventricle posterior wall thickness + interventricular septum thickness) along with neurohumoral variables. All measurements (supine position) were repeated after total paracentesis (10.7 +/- 0.6 L of ascites) in ascitic patients. Both in patients with and without ascites E/A ratio was reduced as compared with controls (0.93 +/- 0.07 and 0.97 +/- 0.06 vs. 1.18 +/- 0.08, P < .05) while left ventricle wall thickness was increased (18.6 +/- 0.6 and 20.1 +/- 0.8 vs. 17.2 +/- 0.7, P < .05 and P < .01, respectively), irrespective of the postviral or alcoholic cause of liver disease. In all cirrhotics both right and left atrial and right ventricle diameters were significantly greater. Ejection fraction was slightly but significantly (P < .01) reduced in ascitic patients. Paracentesis induced a reduction of the highly increased basal plasma renin activity, aldosterone, norepinephrine (P < .01), and epinephrine (P < .05) and improved diastolic function (E/A, P < .05). Systolic function was unaffected. Thus, irrespective of ascites and cause, advanced cirrhosis is associated with left ventricle diastolic dysfunction and wall thickness increase. We can speculate that neurohumoral overactivity, known to stimulate cardiac tissue growth, may challenge the heart, promoting fibrosis and exerting a further hindrance to ventricular relaxation in patients with cirrhosis experiencing episodes of ascites.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ascites / etiology*
  • Ascites / surgery
  • Diastole
  • Echocardiography*
  • Female
  • Heart / physiopathology*
  • Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paracentesis
  • Reference Values
  • Stroke Volume
  • Ventricular Function, Left


  • Hormones