Oral medium-chain triglycerides were given to 10 normal volunteers, 12 cirrhotics (group I) without and 28 cirrhotics (group II) with abnormal portal systemic communications (ascites, splenomegaly, oesophageal varices, or surgically-created portacaval shunts). After 30 ml of medium-chain triglyceride oil there was no appreciable change in serum glucose levels in any of the three groups nor in serum insulin levels in the normals and in cirrhotics in group I. However, there was a significant increase in serum insulin levels in the cirrhotic patients in group II. It is suggested that the rise in serum insulin levels after medium-chain triglycerides noted in the cirrhotics with shunts is due to shunting of insulin-containing portal blood around the liver (anatomical shunts) and to a diminished hepatic cell mass capable of extracting insulin (functional shunt). This differential response of serum insulin levels to medium-chain triglycerides may prove to be of value in detecting the presence of abnormal portal systemic communications in cirrhotic patients.
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