Autonomic and cardiac dysfunction is frequent in cirrhosis and includes increased sympathetic nervous activity, impaired heart rate variability (HRV), and baroreflex sensitivity (BRS). Quantified (123)I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (mIBG) scintigraphy reflects cardiac noradrenaline uptake, and in patients with cardiac failure it predicts outcome. In this study, we aimed to investigate cardiac sympathetic neuronal function in cirrhosis by mIBG scintigraphy in relation to cardiovascular function. Ten patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and 10 age- and sex-matched healthy controls participated in the study. Heart/mediastinum (H/M) ratios of mIBG uptake were calculated 15 and 230 min after intravenous injection of mIBG. Furthermore, washout rate (WOR) of mIBG was calculated. The patients underwent a liver vein catheterization with determination of splanchnic and systemic hemodynamics and measurement of HRV and BRS. mIBG-scintigraphy revealed significantly increased WOR in patients with cirrhosis compared with controls (P < 0.005), whereas H/M uptakes were equal in the groups. Forty percent of the patients had reduced uptake of mIBG in the infero-lateral segment of the left ventricle. WOR correlated significantly with central circulation time, an estimate of central hypovolemia (r = -0.64, P < 0.05) and frequency-corrected QT(F) interval (r = 0.71, P = 0.01). Patients with cirrhosis had significantly decreased HRV and BRS correlating with indicators of abnormal cathecholamine uptake by mIBG although the catecholamine level was normal in the patients. In conclusion, in alcoholic cirrhosis, mIBG scintigraphy reveals autonomic dysfunction and impaired myocardial distribution of sympathetic nervous activity. It is associated to indicators of central hypovolemia, QT interval, and decreased HRV and BRS. Measurement of myocardial catecholamine uptake by mIBG may add important information on autonomic and cardiac dysfunction in cirrhosis.
A J P: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology (online), 2012, Vol 303, Issue 11