The blunted ventricular systolic and diastolic contractile responses to physical and pharmacological stress in cirrhosis are termed cirrhotic cardiomyopathy (CCM). CCM has been known to involve multiple defects in the β-adrenergic signaling pathway. The aim of this study was to determine whether cirrhotic patients have blunted cardiac responses to catecholamine stimulation through dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE). Seventy-one cirrhotic patients with normal left ventricular (LV) chamber size and ejection fraction were enrolled. The LV systolic and diastolic functions were evaluated by two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography at rest and during peak dobutamine infusion (40 μg/kg/min). An abnormal response was defined as a decrease of less than 10% in LV end-diastolic volume, a decrease of less than 20% in end-systolic volume, and an increase of less than 10% in LV ejection fraction (EF) at peak dobutamine infusion, based on previously used criteria. The early/late diastolic flow (E/A) ratio and diastolic parameters were also measured. A blunted LV response to dobutamine was observed in 18 of 71 cirrhotic patients (25.4%). The baseline EF was significantly higher in 18 patients with a blunted DSE response than that of those with a normal DSE response (P<0.05). The baseline and peak E/A ratios, which are common diastolic dysfunction markers, were higher in the cirrhosis group than in the control group (P<0.001). No adverse events associated with DSE were observed. Blunted cardiac responses to dobutamine stimulation, which are implicated in defects in the β-adrenergic signaling pathway, might contribute to the pathogenesis of CCM in patients with cirrhosis.
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