Background/aims: The initial abnormalities of renal sodium handling in cirrhosis remain unclear. The aim of this study was to characterize sodium metabolism in preascitic cirrhosis.
Methods: Ten patients with preascitic cirrhosis and ten controls were studied. All subjects ate a diet providing 120 mmol sodium during an equilibration period lasting 5 days and the study day. On the study day, after remaining in bed, plasma levels of atrial natriuretic peptide, brain natriuretic peptide, renin activity, aldosterone, noradrenaline, and cyclic guanosine monophosphate were measured at 7 am. Thereafter, they were instructed to maintain an upright posture until dinner and the measurements were repeated at 9 am and 6 pm. After having dinner, all subjects were asked to remain in bed and the measurements were repeated at 11 pm. To measure renal sodium and cyclic guanosine monophosphate excretion, 24-h urine collections were performed, starting from 7 pm on the day before the experimental day.
Results: Plasma levels of atrial natriuretic peptide, brain natriuretic peptide and cyclic guanosine monophosphate in patients with preascitic cirrhosis were significantly elevated compared with those in controls at every sampling time (p=0.03 or less, p= 0.04 or less, and p=0.01 or less). In contrast, plasma renin activities at every sampling time were significantly lower in patients than in controls (p= 0.04 or less). Plasma aldosterone and noradrenaline levels were not significantly different at every sampling time in the two groups. No significant differences in daily renal sodium excretion were found. However, urinary cyclic guanosine monophosphate excretion was significantly higher in patients than in controls (p<0.01).
Conclusions: The initial abnormalities of sodium metabolism in cirrhosis might be characterized by blunted renal responsiveness to natriuretic peptides. The results of the study also provide indirect evidence that the impairment is mainly located at postreceptor levels of signal transduction pathway to the peptides, if the activation of antinatriuretic factors other than renin-angiotensin or sympathoadrenergic systems does not play a role.