BACKGROUND: Transcatheter arterial chemoembolisation, a procedure for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma, provokes a pronounced but transient increase in hepatic cytolysis parameters. A definite evaluation of the impairment of liver function after this treatment, performed by adequate techniques, is still lacking. AIMS: To assess and quantify the impairment of liver metabolic activity after arterial chemoembolisation in patients with cirrhosis. The variations of hepatic vein pressure gradient provoked by this procedure were evaluated. PATIENTS: 15 patients with cirrhosis (Child's class A and B) and hepatocellular carcinoma. METHODS: 17 transcatheter arterial chemoembolisations with epirubicin, iodised oil, and gelfoam were performed; liver function was assessed before, the following day, and after seven days measuring galactose elimination capacity; aminopyrine breath test was also performed in six patients before the procedure and seven days after. In 10 patients intrinsic hepatic clearance of indocyanine green and hepatic vein pressure gradient were measured by hepatic vein catheterisation before and 30 minutes after chemoembolisation. RESULTS: Intrinsic hepatic clearance of indocyanine green decreased significantly from (mean (SEM)) 355 (140) ml/min to 277 (98) ml/min after the procedure (p = 0.0007). Galactose elimination capacity did not show significant changes, being 4.00 (0.90) mg/min/kg body weight at baseline, 4.20 (0.90) mg/min/kg body weight after one day, and 3.95 (0.87) mg/min/kg body weight seven days after chemoembolisation. Aminopyrine breath test was 2.31 (1.09)% and remained unchanged after treatment, being 2.39 (2.04)% at day 7. Baseline hepatic vein pressure gradient was 17.0 (5.5) mm Hg, and 14.4 (3.7) mm Hg 30 minutes after chemoembolisation (p = 0.09). CONCLUSIONS: A single transcatheter chemoembolisation in cirrhotic patients was detected by galactose elimination capacity and aminopyrine breath test one and seven days after the procedure. Therefore it can be considered a safe therapeutic tool for hepatocellular carcinoma in Child's class A and B cirrhotic patients.
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