Endothelial and microvascular function in liver cirrhosis: an old concept that needs re-evaluation?
Liver cirrhosis is characterized by significant circulatory dysregulation, related to an imbalance among several vasodilating agents, mainly nitric oxide. In contrast to portal vein and macrovascular hemodynamic alterations, which have been rather well described, the peripheral microcirculatory and endothelial structure and function in this population are less well studied. Endothelial dysfunction is characterized by an imbalance between endothelium-derived relaxing and contracting factors. A number of methods have been used to assess endothelial and microvascular function in human studies. Venous occlusion plethysmography was used for many years as the gold standard for evaluating endothelial function, but flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) of the forearm is currently the most frequently used method. In patients with cirrhosis, the few existing studies have mainly used FMD, but the relevant results are largely contradictory. In recent years, several noninvasive and easily applicable methods, such as near-infrared spectroscopy, laser speckle contrast imaging, peripheral arterial tonometry, optical coherence tomography and nailfold video-capillaroscopy, have been increasingly used to assess peripheral microvascular function and have demonstrated a number of advantages. In this review, we present functional methods to evaluate peripheral microvascular and endothelial function, and we discuss the existing evidence on circulatory dysfunction in patients with liver cirrhosis.
Keywords Cirrhosis, endothelial dysfunction, microcirculation, flow-mediated dilatation, venous occlusion plethysmography
Ann Gastroenterol 2022; 35 (5): 471-482