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Bile salt secretion in cirrhosis of the liver
  1. Leslie A. Turnberg,
  2. Gordon Grahame


    Secretion of bile salts into the duodenum was studied in eight normal subjects, in 10 patients with cirrhosis, and in two cholecystectomized subjects. Duodenal juice was aspirated continuously through a double-lumen tube during an unstimulated period, after an intravenous injection of pancreozymin/cholecystokinin, and during a continuous intravenous infusion of secretin given at a rate of 3 units per kilogram body weight per hour. Precautions were taken to try to ensure quantitative recovery during the studies, and recovery of an infused nonabsorbable marker was greater than 80% in all subjects.

    Secretin induced a flow of a greater volume of juice in the cirrhotic patients than in the normal group (49 to 57 ml per 10 minutes compared with 28 to 49 ml per 10 minutes). This change may have resulted from a higher effective dose of secretin if it is assumed that the cirrhotic liver fails to catabolize secretin.

    The bile acid response to pancreozymin/cholecystokinin followed by secretin in the cirrhotic subjects resembled that seen in patients after cholecystectomy in whom pancreozymin/cholecystokinin induces only a slight increase in bile salt output but in whom the output of bile salts during rest and secretin stimulation is markedly greater than normal. This response in cirrhosis is probably best interpreted as due to impaired function of the gallbladder. The total amount of bile salt liberated over the two hours of the test in the cirrhotic patients was similar to normal The concentration of bile salt after pancreozymin/cholecystokinin was less than in normal subjects, but similar to that in cholecystectomized patients. It is unlikely therefore that deficient output or concentration of bile salt can be held responsible for steatorrhea in cirrhosis.

    There was a marked decrease in the deoxycholate conjugates and a reduction in the glycine: taurine ratio in the bile of cirrhotic patients. The former change may reflect a change in bacterial flora and the latter a defect in hepatic conjugating mechanisms.

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