Does High-Intensity Exercise Cause Acute Liver Injury in Patients with Fontan Circulation? A Prospective Pilot Study.

Gumm A; Ginde S; Hoffman G; Liegl M; Mack C; Simpson P; Telega G; Vitola B; Chugh A;

Pediatric cardiology [Pediatr Cardiol] 2023 May 23.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2023 May 23.

The Fontan procedure results in chronic hepatic congestion and Fontan-associated liver disease (FALD) characterized by progressive liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Exercise is recommended in this population, but may accelerate the progression of FALD from abrupt elevations in central venous pressure. The aim of this study was to assess if acute liver injury occurs after high-intensity exercise in patients with Fontan physiology. Ten patients were enrolled. Nine had normal systolic ventricular function and one had an ejection fraction < 40%. During cardiopulmonary exercise testing, patients had near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to measure oxygen saturation of multiple organs, including the liver, and underwent pre- and post-exercise testing with liver elastography, laboratory markers, and cytokines to assess liver injury. The hepatic and renal NIRS showed a statistically significant decrease in oxygenation during exercise, and the hepatic NIRS had the slowest recovery compared to renal, cerebral, and peripheral muscle NIRS. A clinically significant increase in shear wave velocity occurred after exercise testing only in the one patient with systolic dysfunction. There was a statistically significant, albeit trivial, increase in ALT and GGT after exercise. Fibrogenic cytokines traditionally associated with FALD did not increase significantly in our cohort; however, pro-inflammatory cytokines that predispose to fibrogenesis did significantly rise during exercise. Although patients with Fontan circulation demonstrated a significant reduction in hepatic tissue oxygenation based on NIRS saturations during exercise, there was no clinical evidence of acute increase in liver congestion or acute liver injury following high-intensity exercise.