What is Cardiac Cirrhosis?

Mary McMahon

Cardiac cirrhosis is a liver condition caused by chronic heart failure. In patients with this condition, the liver is damaged as a result of interruptions to the bloodflow, and fibrous deposits begin to develop. Although it is referred to as cirrhosis, it does not necessarily meet the diagnostic criteria for cirrhosis, and it is important to note that this condition is not caused by alcohol abuse. People with cardiac cirrhosis can be treated in a number of ways, sometimes in a hospital setting and sometimes on an outpatient basis, depending on the nature of a patient's condition.

Treatments for cardiac cirrhosis include medication and surgery.
Treatments for cardiac cirrhosis include medication and surgery.

In people with heart failure, the entire cardiovascular system is disrupted and this can lead to a cascade of symptoms, including congestive hepatopathy, where pressure in the blood vessels inside the liver increases, leading to congestion. This damages the liver cells, creating a distinctive speckled appearance on a cellular level. Liver cells start to die, fibrous deposits develop, and the patient can develop cardiac cirrhosis.

Cardiac cirrhosis occurs when a person's liver is damaged due to chronic heart failure.
Cardiac cirrhosis occurs when a person's liver is damaged due to chronic heart failure.

Ideally, this condition should be prevented before onset with treatment of heart conditions. People in heart failure can be monitored for signs of complications and treatment for heart failure can relieve the strain on the internal organs. Treatments can include medications and surgery, depending on the underlying cause of the heart failure and the patient's general level of health. If early damage to the liver has occurred, treatment should prevent increases in severity.

Cardiac cirrhosis is caused by chronic heart failure.
Cardiac cirrhosis is caused by chronic heart failure.

Some patients do not experience health problems as a result of cardiac cirrhosis, and as long as the underlying heart condition is managed, they may not need additional care. Other treatment options include the use of diuretics to lower blood pressure and volume, reducing the strain on the liver, and surgery. Diet and exercise regimens can also help improve the patient's condition and may be undertaken under the direction of a general physician, physical therapist, or nutritionist.

Drinking alcohol won't cause cardiac cirrhosis.
Drinking alcohol won't cause cardiac cirrhosis.

This condition is more common in older adults, as they are at increased risk of heart failure. Liver dysfunction can become a serious medical issue, as an impaired liver is less capable of metabolizing chemical compounds. The liver plays an important role in metabolizing a number of medications and people with liver damage may be less tolerant of some drugs in addition to being less capable of consuming alcohol safely. People with cardiac cirrhosis should be monitored closely for signs of liver dysfunction and their treatment should be adjusted accordingly if issues develop.

People with cardiac cirrhosis should be monitored closely for signs of liver dysfunction.
People with cardiac cirrhosis should be monitored closely for signs of liver dysfunction.
Diuretics may be prescribed to lower a person's blood pressure.
Diuretics may be prescribed to lower a person's blood pressure.
A liver ultrasound can be used to investigate cardiac cirrhosis.
A liver ultrasound can be used to investigate cardiac cirrhosis.

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Discussion Comments

anon351845

@Matthew23: it depends on what stage the cirrhosis is in. My father passed away from cardiac cirrhosis, and heart failure is different than a heart attack and arrhythmia. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is a result of a blockage or inflammation of the arteries.

Congestive heart failure is the decreased ability of the heart to pump blood forward in a cyclical manner. Heart failure can be brought on by a heart attack, uncontrolled blood pressure or heart valve disease.

In my father's case, he did all the necessary weight loss, took medication and was dieting (above and beyond) before he could have his valve repaired, and they did all the proper testing. But with any biopsy they can pull a healthier piece of tissue and not know the severity until it's too late. Unfortunately, once the liver is too far gone, it will not regenerate healthy tissue, which was dad's case. He went into a better hospital for his valve repair only to find he was stage 4 cirrhosis. He passed away four days later.

Moral of the story: Take care of your ticker and do what you can to make sure your loved ones do, as well!

cardsfan27

@jmc88 - I am not a medical expert, but I think most of the time heart failure just refers to anything that stops the heart from supplying blood to the body. Obviously, a heart attack would be a heart failure. There are other valve problems that would do the same types of thing.

As far as arrhythmia goes, since that is an abnormal beating of the heart, I don't know if it would fall into the same category since blood is still being pumped into the body. Because of that, I don't think it would be a cause for cardiac cirrhosis.

jmc88

@matthewc23 - In most cases I would say you are probably right. If your heart problems did go away or you got them under control, having liver problems could cause some major issues.

What I'm wonder is what qualifies as chronic heart failure. Would this be something like repeated heart attacks, or would something like arrhythmia be classified into that category, as well? What goes into making a heart failure prognosis?

matthewc23

I think it would be awful to be diagnosed with cardiac cirrhosis. As if having chronic heart problems wasn't enough, this would just be something else to have to worry about.

I was thinking, though, if you had chronic heart problems and did develop cardiac cirrhosis, wouldn't it probably be the heart problems that would lead to an overall shorter life?

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