Objectives: Altered small-bowel motility, lengthening of the orocecal transit time, and small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth have been described in patients with liver cirrhosis. These changes might be related to the progressive course and poor prognosis of the disease. We investigated the effect of a long-term treatment with cisapride and an antibiotic regimen on small-intestinal motor activity, orocecal transit time, bacterial overgrowth, and some parameters of liver function.
Methods: Thirty-four patients with liver cirrhosis of different etiology entered in the study. They were randomly allocated to receive cisapride (12), an alternating regimen of norfloxacin and neomycin (12), or placebo (10) during a period of 6 months. At entry and at 3 and 6 months, a stationary small-intestinal manometry was performed, and orocecal transit time and small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth were also investigated using the H2 breath test. Liver function was estimated with clinical and laboratory measurements (Child-Pugh score).
Results: After 6 months, both cisapride and antibiotics significantly improved fasting cyclic activity, reduced the duration of orocecal transit time, and decreased small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Cisapride administration was followed also by an increase in the amplitude of contractions. No statistically significant variations in these parameters were observed with placebo. An improvement of liver function was observed at 3 and 6 months with both cisapride and antibiotics.
Conclusions: Long-term treatment with cisapride or antibiotics reversed altered small-intestinal motility and bacterial overgrowth in patients with liver cirrhosis. These findings suggest a possible role for prokinetics and antibiotics as a modality of treatment in selected cases of decompensated cirrhosis.