Acute prehepatic portal hypertension induces intestinal secretion in animal models. In the course of chronic liver disease, however, these changes are not observed, despite higher portal pressures than those found in experimental studies. Eight patients without diarrhoea and with chronic alcoholic liver disease were examined for evidence of increased jejunal secretion; their suprahepatic wedge pressure was raised from 21 to 45 mmHg (mean 34.6 mmHg). Jejunal perfusion with a triple lumen catheter and a proximal occluding balloon was used to study net flows of water and chloride as well as net and unidirectional flows of sodium and potassium. No statistical difference in intestinal flows of water and electrolytes was noted between cirrhotic patients and control subjects after infusion with a 30 mmol/l glucose solution. Infusion with a 30 mmol/l mannitol solution resulted in a lower absorption of water, Na, K, and Cl than with the glucose solution. A higher rate of Na secretion was observed in cirrhotic patients than control subjects after infusion with 30 mmol/l mannitol (p less than 0.01). In addition, the rate of Na secretion was higher in cirrhotic patients than in control subjects (p less than 0.05). There was no correlation between the net flow of Na and the suprahepatic wedge pressure. A second perfusion with a 30 mmol/l glucose solution was given 75 minutes after a bolus injection of spironolactone (400 mg). Net flows of Na and Cl were lower in cirrhotic patients than in control subjects (p less than 0.05) because of a lower absorption of Na. Patients with gradually developing portal hypertension have moderate jejunal secretions of H2O and electrolytes which we assume are partly masked by increased absorption resulting from hyperaldosteronism. In contrast to animal models, this mechanism may be part of the jejunal adaptation to permeability in acute portal hypertension.
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