Arterial hypertension is a common disorder with a frequency of 10% to 15% in subjects in the 40- to 60-year age group. Yet most reports find the prevalence of arterial hypertension in patients with chronic liver disease (cirrhosis) much lower. In this review, we consider the alterations in systemic hemodynamics in cirrhosis. The most characteristic findings in cirrhotic patients are vasodilatation with low systemic vascular resistance, increased cardiac output, high arterial compliance, secondary activation of counterregulatory systems (sympathetic nervous system, renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, neuropituitary release of vasopressin), and resistance to vasopressors. The vasodilatory state is mediated through nitric oxide, calcitonin gene-related peptide, adrenomedullin, and other vasodilators, and is most pronounced in the splanchnic area. This constitutes an effective (although relative) counterbalance to increased arterial blood pressure. Subjects with established arterial hypertension (essential, secondary) may become normotensive during the development of cirrhosis, and arterial hypertension is rarely manifested in patients with cirrhosis, even in cases with renovascular disease and high circulating renin activity. There is much dispute as to the understanding of homeostatic regulation in cirrhotic patients with manifest arterial hypertension. This is a topic for future research.
Current Hypertension Reports, 2004, Vol 6, Issue 6, p. 453-61