Background & aims: Angiotensin II receptor antagonists have been proposed as new drugs for portal hypertension. This randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study aimed to assess the effect of the angiotensin II receptor antagonist irbesartan on portal and systemic hemodynamics and renal function in patients with cirrhosis.
Methods: Thirty-six patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension received 150 mg/d irbesartan or placebo for 1 week. Systemic hemodynamics, kidney and liver function parameters were recorded regularly; hepatic venous pressure gradient and plasma renin were assessed on days 0 and 7.
Results: Irbesartan reduced the hepatic venous pressure gradient by 12.2% +/- 6.6% (P < 0.05) and mean arterial pressure by 5.3% +/- 4.0% in 13 of 18 verum patients. In 4 (22%) verum patients, arterial hypotension, accompanied by significant renal impairment, required withdrawal of irbesartan. In these patients, baseline plasma renin (P < 0.002) and cystatin C (P < 0.001) levels were higher, and creatinine clearance (P < 0.02), serum sodium (P < 0.01), and albumin (P < 0.05) were lower than in patients who tolerated irbesartan. Four of five patients with baseline renin >900 microU/mL developed treatment-limiting hypotension.
Conclusions: The angiotensin II receptor antagonist irbesartan is not advisable in patients with advanced cirrhosis and high plasma renin because it may induce arterial hypotension and only moderately reduces portal pressure.