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Effect of portasystemic venous shunt surgery on hyperglucagonaemia in cirrhosis: paired studies of pre- and post-shunted subjects
  1. F. J. Dudley,
  2. F. P. Alford,
  3. D. J. Chisholm,
  4. D. M. Findlay


    The effect of liver disease on glucagon metabolism was examined in nine patients with chronic liver disease who were studied both before and after the creation of a surgical portasystemic shunt. Hepatocellular function did not deteriorate after shunt surgery. However, hepatic perfusion with splanchnic venous blood, as determined by scintisplenoportography, decreased after shunt surgery in six subjects but appeared unaltered in three. Basal plasma immunoreactive glucagon (IRG) levels in the pre-shunt cirrhotic group were significantly greater (p <0·005) than in control subjects and further increased (p <0·05) after shunt surgery. Moreover, the increase in basal IRG after shunt was evident only in patients in whom portasystemic shunting was demonstrably increased by surgery. Despite the higher basal IRG levels postoperatively, shunt surgery in the cirrhotics did not alter basal glucose and insulin levels or the glucose and insulin response to a glucose or protein load. Circulating IRG was heterogeneous in the pre-shunt cirrhotic patients: the 9000 molecular weight fraction comprised 27±4%, the 3500 mol. wt. fraction 71±4%, and the > 40 000 mol. wt. fraction was minimal. After shunt surgery, the relative proportion of the 9000 mol. wt. fraction of IRG (13±3%) decreased significantly (p <0·05) and this fall was associated with a corresponding increase in the 3,500 mol. wt. fraction (84±4%). It is concluded that, in cirrhosis, hyperglucagonaemia is: (1) dependent on the degree of portasystemic shunting rather than impaired hepatocellular function; (2) predominantly due to increased circulating 3500 molecular weight glucagon; and (3) not a major factor in the pathogenesis of carbohydrate intolerance in liver disease.

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