We investigated the determinants of hepatic clearance functions in a rat model of liver cirrhosis induced by phenobarbital/CCl4. Aminopyrine N-demethylation (ABT), galactose elimination (GBT), and serum bile acids (SBA) were determined in vivo. The livers were then characterized hemodynamically: intrahepatic shunting (IHS) was determined by microspheres and sinusoidal capillarization by measuring the extravascular albumin space (EVA) by a multiple indicator dilution technique. The intrinsic clearance was determined by assaying the activity of the rate-limiting enzymes in vitro. Hepatocellular volume (HCV) was measured by morphometry. ABT and SBA, but not GBT, differentiated cirrhotic from normal liver. IHS ranged from normal to 10%; all cirrhotic livers showed evidence of sinusoidal capillarization (reduced EVA). The cirrhotic livers showed a bimodal distribution of HCV, HCV being decreased in 50% of the cirrhotic livers. Multivariate analysis showed EVA and portal flow to be the main determinants of microsomal (ABT) and cytosolic (GBT) clearance function; SBA, by contrast, were determined solely by IHS. We conclude that sinusoidal capillarization is the main determinant of hepatic clearance, while serum bile acids reflect intrahepatic shunting. These findings emphasize the importance of alterations of hepatic nutritional flow to explain reduced clearance function in cirrhosis of the liver.


J Reichen, B Egger, N Ohara, T B Zeltner, T Zysset, A Zimmermann


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