Hepatopulmonary disorders: Gas exchange and vascular manifestations in chronic liver disease

Robert Rodríguez-Roisin, Michael J. Krowka, Alvar Agustí

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


This review concentrates on the determinants of gas exchange abnormalities in liver-induced pulmonary vascular disorders, more specifically in the hepatopulmonary syndrome. Increased alveolar-arterial O2 difference, with or without different levels of arterial hypoxemia, and reduced diffusing capacity represent the most characteristic gas exchange disturbances in the absence of cardiac and pulmonary comorbidities. Pulmonary gas exchange abnormalities in the hepatopulmonary syndrome are unique encompassing all three pulmonary factors determining arterial PO2, that is, ventilation-perfusion imbalance, increased intrapulmonary shunt and oxygen diffusion limitation that, combined, interplay with two relevant nonpulmonary determinants, that is, increased total ventilation and high cardiac output. Behind the complexity of this lung-liver association there is an abnormal pulmonary vascular tone that combines inhibition of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction with a reduced (or blunted) hypoxic vascular response. The pathology and pathobiology include the presence of intrapulmonary vascular dilatations with or without pulmonary vascular remodeling, i.e. angiogenesis. Liver transplantation, the only effective therapeutic approach to successfully improve and resolve the vast majority of complications induced by the hepatopulmonary syndrome, along with a large list of frustrating pharmacologic interventions, are also reviewed. Another liver-induced pulmonary vascular disorder with less gas exchange involvement, such as portopulmonary hypertension, is also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-729
Number of pages19
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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