In a prospective study of 170 patients with various types of chronic liver disease, a pulmonary gas transfer defect was found in 20% and mottled shadowing in the chest radiograph in 6%. The presence of these abnormalities was not related to the cause of the liver disease.
Reduction of transfer factor in liver disease was not accompanied by a restrictive ventilatory defect and was found in most cases with mottled radiographs.
The incidence of finger clubbing and the levels of both venoarterial admixture and cardiac output were higher in patients with mottling than in those with normal radiographs. Mottling was also seen in the chest radiographs of five other patients with hepatic cirrhosis who had previously been investigated for cyanosis due to intrapulmonary shunting.
Despite earlier reports of active chronic hepatitis and primary biliary cirrhosis occurring in patients with fibrosing alveolitis, we suggest that these radiographic changes in liver disease are usually caused by a pulmonary vascular disorder, rather than by coincidental lung disease, and are a local manifestation of a generalized vasodilated state. The low incidence of diffuse lung disease complicating chronic liver disease was confirmed by reviewing the hospital necropsy records.
In one patient the radiographic mottling disappeared and the physiological evidence of a circulatory disorder became less marked during a period of improved hepatocellular function.
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