This lung condition causes low oxygen levels and shortness of breath in people who have advanced liver disease.
Hepatopulmonary (hep-uh-toe-POOL-moe-nar-e) syndrome is an uncommon condition that affects the lungs of people with advanced liver disease. Hepatopulmonary syndrome is caused by blood vessels in the lungs expanding (dilating) and increasing in number, making it hard for red blood cells to properly absorb oxygen. This leaves the lungs unable to deliver adequate amounts of oxygen to the body, which leads to low oxygen levels (hypoxemia).
Exactly how the liver disease is linked to the lung condition isn't yet known. A liver transplant is the only cure for hepatopulmonary syndrome.
Most people with hepatopulmonary syndrome have no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include:
Hepatopulmonary syndrome is caused when blood vessels in and around the lungs widen (dilate), which affects the amount of oxygen that moves from the lungs into the bloodstream. What causes this abnormality remains unclear, and it's unknown why some people with liver disease develop hepatopulmonary syndrome while others do not.
These tests can help determine if you have hepatopulmonary syndrome:
Supplemental oxygen therapy is the main treatment for shortness of breath caused by low oxygen levels in the blood. A liver transplant is the only cure for hepatopulmonary syndrome.