Plasma amino-acid concentrations were measured in 167 patients with liver disease of varying aetiology and severity, all free of encephalopathy, and the results compared with those in 57 control subjects matched for age and sex. In the four groups of patients with chronic liver disease (26 patients with chronic active hepatitis, 23 with primary biliary cirrhosis, 11 with cryptogenic cirrhosis, and 48 with alcoholic hepatitis +/- cirrhosis) plasma concentrations of methionine were significantly increased, while concentrations of the three branched chain amino-acids were significantly reduced. In the first three groups of patients plasma concentrations of aspartate, serine, and one or both of the aromatic amino-acids tyrosine and phenylalanine were also significantly increased, while in the patients with alcoholic hepatitis +/- cirrhosis plasma concentrations of glycine, alanine, and phenylalanine were significantly reduced. In the three groups of patients with minimal, potentially reversible liver disease (31 patients with alcoholic fatty liver, 10 with viral hepatitis, and 18 with biliary disease) plasma concentrations of proline and the three branched chain amino-acids were significantly reduced. Patients with alcoholic fatty liver also showed significantly reduced plasma phenylalanine values. Most changes in plasma amino-acid concentrations in patients with chronic liver disease may be explained on the basis of impaired hepatic function, portal-systemic shunting of blood, and hyperinsulinaemia and hyperglucagonaemia. The changes in patients with minimal liver disease are less easily explained.
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