Purpose: Heart diseases can alter liver volume, morphology, and circulation. The Doppler pulsatility of the portal vein and its pulsatility ratio (PR) have been reported as being closely associated with the right atrial pressure and with the New York Heart Association (NYHA) class. We examined the relationships between measurements of liver and spleen dimensions and blood flow in portal and hepatic veins, assessed noninvasively by Doppler sonography, and compared them with echocardiographic data.
Methods: The study group comprised 87 inpatients with heart failure. The mean age was 64+/-12 years. Patients underwent duplex Doppler sonography of the heart and portal and hepatic veins.
Results: Patients with more severe left ventricular failure (NYHA class III-IV) showed more dilatation of the left ventricle and atrium, reduced systolic function, and reduced portal vein mean velocity compared with patients with milder heart failure (NYHA class I-II); in addition, the hepatic vein diameter was increased and portal vein PR was reduced. Considering all patients, significant positive correlations were found between portal vein PR and left ventricular shortening fraction (r= 0.34, p < 0.01) and ejection fraction (r= 0.38, p < 0.001). Significant negative correlations were found between PR and hepatic vein diameter (r= -0.44, p < 0.001), right ventricle diameter (r = -0.38, p < 0.001), left ventricular end-diastolic volume (r = -0.31, p < 0.01), and left atrium diameter (r = -0.33, p < 0.01). Patients with hepatic vein dilatation had increased left ventricular volumes, reduced systolic function indices, and portal vein alterations (increased diameter, reduced mean velocity, and reduced PR). In patients with an ejection fraction of no more than 50%, only PR was significantly reduced, while other sonographic liver measurements were not significantly different.
Conclusions: The effects of cardiac failure on portal blood flow, which declines progressively with worsening cardiac function, is shown better by the pulsatility pattern of the portal vein than by morphologic caval and hepatic vein measurements. PR can be used as a reliable adjunctive sign of heart failure.