Intestinal blood flow in patients with chronic heart failure: A link with bacterial growth, gastrointestinal symptoms, and cachexia

Anja Sandek, Alexander Swidsinski, Wieland Schroedl, Alastair Watson, Miroslava Valentova, Ralph Herrmann, Nadja Scherbakov, Larissa Cramer, Mathias Rauchhaus, Anke Grosse-Herrenthey, Monika Krueger, Stephan von Haehling, Wolfram Doehner, Stefan D. Anker, Juergen Bauditz

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Background: Blood flow in the intestinal arteries is reduced in patients with stable heart failure (HF) and relates to gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and cardiac cachexia. Objectives: The aims of this study were to measure arterial intestinal blood flow and assess its role in juxtamucosal bacterial growth, GI symptoms, and cachexia in patients with HF. Methods: A total of 65 patients and 25 controls were investigated. Twelve patients were cachectic. Intestinal blood flow and bowel wall thickness were measured using ultrasound. GI symptoms were documented. Bacteria in stool and juxtamucosal bacteria on biopsies taken during sigmoidoscopy were studied in a subgroup by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Serum lipopolysaccharide antibodies were measured. Results: Patients showed 30% to 43% reduced mean systolic blood flow in the superior and inferior mesenteric arteries and celiac trunk (CT) compared with controls (p < 0.007 for all). Cachectic patients had the lowest blood flow (p < 0.002). Lower blood flow in the superior mesenteric artery and CT was correlated with HF severity (p < 0.04 for all). Patients had more feelings of repletion, flatulence, intestinal murmurs, and burping (p < 0.04). Burping and nausea or vomiting were most severe in patients with cachexia (p < 0.05). Patients with lower CT blood flow had more abdominal discomfort and immunoglobulin A–antilipopolysaccharide (r = 0.76, p < 0.02). Antilipopolysaccharide response was correlated with increased growth of juxtamucosal but not stool bacteria. Patients with intestinal murmurs had greater bowel wall thickness of the sigmoid and descending colon, suggestive of edema contributing to GI symptoms (p < 0.05). In multivariate regression analysis, lower blood flow in the superior mesenteric artery, CT (p < 0.04), and inferior mesenteric artery (p = 0.056) was correlated with the presence of cardiac cachexia. Conclusions: Intestinal blood flow is reduced in patients with HF. This may contribute to juxtamucosal bacterial growth and GI symptoms in patients with advanced HF complicated by cachexia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1092-1102
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number11
Early online date8 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2014


  • bacteria
  • gastrointestinal symptoms
  • heart failure
  • intestinal blood flow

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