The poor outcome in patients with extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice seems in some way related to reticuloendothelial dysfunction. Similar dysfunction can be caused by abnormal tissue phospholipid fatty acid patterns. Little is, however, known about such patterns in extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice. The phospholipid fatty acid patterns in 42 controls were compared with 42 patients with extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice. Many abnormalities were found. The general pattern was of a fall in polyunsaturated fatty acids and a rise in monounsaturated fatty acids, with a consequent fall in the double bond index (mean number of double bonds per fatty acid) showing an overall rise in saturation. All three major substrates for eicosanoid production were reduced in the jaundiced group. The changes seemed to be associated with jaundice itself, rather than the cause of the jaundice. The central roles of fatty acids in the determination of membrane function and in the provision of substrates of eicosanoid production, mean that these changes may explain some of the reticuloendothelial dysfunction found in extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice.
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