We examined the effect of a new long-acting release formula (LAR) of the somatostatin analogue, octreotide, on development of sodium retention and functional and structural changes in the thick ascending limb of Henle's loop (TAL) in rats with cirrhosis induced by common bile duct ligation (CBL). CBL and sham-operated control rats were treated with octreotide-LAR (10 mg/kg body weight subcutaneously, as a single dose) or vehicle at the time of CBL or sham-CBL. The rats were instrumented with chronic catheters, and sodium balance and renal function were examined 4 weeks after CBL or sham operation. Octreotide-LAR treatment significantly inhibited sodium retention in CBL rats and prevented renal vasodilatation without changes in glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The natriuretic response to a test dose of furosemide (7.5 mg/kg body weight intravenously) was significantly increased in CBL rats, and when expressed in terms of natriuretic efficiency (mmol Na/mg furosemide in urine), the natriuretic response was increased by 57% relative to sham-operated controls. Stereological examination of kidneys demonstrated a 53% increase in the volume of the inner stripe of the outer medulla and a 108% increase in the volume of TAL epithelium in cirrhotic rats relative to controls. The increased natriuretic efficiency of furosemide as well as the hypertrophy of the inner stripe and the TAL in this renal zone were absent in CBL rats treated with octreotide-LAR. These results suggest that octreotide-LAR treatment inhibits sodium retention in cirrhotic rats, partly by inhibition of increased furosemide-sensitive sodium reabsorption in the TAL.