Liver dysfunction in chronic heart failure: prevalence, characteristics and prognostic significance


Gerhard Poelzl, MD, Assoc. Prof., FESC, Clinical Division of Cardiology, Innsbruck Medical University, Anichstrasse 35, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria. Tel.: 0043 512 504 81318; fax: 0043 512 504 23264; e-mail:


Eur J Clin Invest 2011


Background  Although abnormal liver morphology and function have long been recognized, characterization and importance of liver dysfunction in heart failure are poorly defined. This study sought to investigate the relevance of circulating liver function tests (LFTs) in an unselected chronic heart failure (CHF) cohort.

Materials and methods  A total of 1032 consecutive ambulatory patients with CHF were enrolled from 2000 to 2008. Clinical and laboratory variables including LFTs were collected at study entry. Follow-up (median 36 months) was available in 1002 (97·1%) patients. The endpoint was defined as death from any cause or heart transplantation. Hazard ratios (HR) for transplant-free survival were estimated per log unit using Cox proportional hazard regression models for sex-stratified data.

Results  Sex-specific prevalence of cholestatic enzyme elevation was 19·2% as opposed to elevated transaminases in 8·3%. Cholestatic enzymes, but not transaminases, were significantly associated with severity of heart failure syndrome and backward failure. The endpoint was recorded in 339 patients (33·8%). T-Bil, γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) were associated with adverse outcome in bivariate models. Of these, GGT [HR 1·22 (1·06, 1·41); P = 0·006] and ALP [HR 1·52 (1·09, 2·12); P = 0·014] were independently associated with the endpoint after adjustment for a wide array of clinical and laboratory predictors.

Conclusions  Liver dysfunction is frequent in CHF and characterized by a predominantly cholestatic enzyme profile that is associated with disease severity and prognosis. Thus, we propose a cardio-hepatic syndrome in CHF. Future studies are needed to clarify the exact mechanisms of organ interaction.