Hepatopulmonary syndrome is a very uncommon condition that affects the lungs of individuals with advanced liver disease. This disease results in low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia) caused by the expansion of blood vessels in size and number. This makes it difficult for the lungs to deliver adequate amounts of oxygen to the body. Liver transplant is the only known cure for this condition.
1 What is Hepatopulmonary Syndrome?
Some symptoms of hepatopulmonary syndrome include:
- shortness of breath,
- hypoxemia or low oxygen content in the blood of arteries which is caused by vasolidation in the lungs of a person with a liver disease.
Patients can complain from dyspnea and can become increasing cyanotic.
Hepatopulmonary syndrome is caused by the formation of microscopic pulmonary arteriovenous dilations in patients with both chronic and acute liver failure.
This mechanism is unknown but is thought to be as a result of increased liver production or decreased liver clearance of vasolidators, possibly involving nitric oxide.
4 Making a Diagnosis
Making a diagnosis of hepatopulmonary syndrome is done by performing several tests.
Patients with clinically significant symptoms should undergo pulse oximetry.
A useful diagnostic test that can be carried out is a contrast echocardigraphy test.
Currently, the only known treatment method for hepatopulmonary syndrome is a liver transplant.