Pulse Oximetry Is Insensitive for Detection of Hepatopulmonary Syndrome in Patients Evaluated for Liver Transplantation

for the Pulmonary Vascular Complications of Liver Disease 2 Study Group

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Screening for hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS) using pulse oximetry is recommended in liver transplant (LT) candidates because mortality is increased, independently of the severity of the oxygenation defect. LT exception points may be afforded to those with HPS and severe hypoxemia. We assessed the screening characteristics of pulse oximetry for HPS. The Pulmonary Vascular Complications of Liver Disease 2 study is a multicenter, prospective cohort study of adults undergoing their first LT evaluation. Patients underwent protocolized assessment of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry (SpO2), arterial blood gas, spirometry, and contrast-enhanced echocardiography (CE). HPS was defined as an alveolar-arterial gradient ≥15 mm Hg (≥20 mm Hg if age >64 years), intrapulmonary vascular dilatation on CE, and absence of lung disease. The study sample included 363 patients. Of these, 75 (20.7%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 16.6%-25.2%) met the criteria for HPS. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (or c-statistic) for SpO2 in discriminating HPS was 0.59 (95% CI, 0.51-0.66). An SpO2 <96%, recommended by practice guidelines as a threshold to require further testing, had low sensitivity (28%; 95% CI, 18%-28%). The c-statistic of SpO2 in discriminating HPS with a partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2) <60 mm Hg (eligible for LT exception points) was 0.76 (95% CI, 0.46-1.00). An SpO2 cutoff of <96% had higher sensitivity for detecting HPS with PaO2 <60 mm Hg (71%; 95% CI, 38%-100%) but was still inadequate. Conclusion: Pulse oximetry is not sufficiently sensitive to screen for HPS in LT candidates. Arterial blood gas and CE are required in LT candidates for diagnosis of HPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology

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