N-acetylcysteine improves intestinal barrier in partially hepatectomized rats

ANZ J Surg. 2007 Mar;77(3):173-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.2006.04001.x.


Background: Translocating enteric bacteria play an important role in the development of infections following partial hepatectomy. The intestine itself is the first line of defence against bacterial translocation (BT). We investigated the effect of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on BT and the intestinal wall.

Methods: We compared four groups of Sprague-Dawley male rats (eight in each group): sham, sham plus preoperative single dose of NAC, partial hepatectomy and partial hepatectomy plus preoperative single dose of NAC. Microorganism count in the tissues and the glutathione and malondialdehyte contents of the intestinal wall were studied at the end of the 24th hour.

Results: Bacterial growth was observed in the spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes in the sham group. There was bacterial growth in all the samples of the partial hepatectomy group. Differences were significant except in atrial and portal blood counts. In the partial hepatectomy plus NAC treatment group, counts were significantly low in all, except atrial and portal blood samples. The malondialdehyte level in the intestinal wall was 35.38 +/- 10.27 in the sham group, increasing significantly in the partial hepatectomy group (69.50 +/- 21.48), and decreasing in the partial hepatectomy plus NAC treatment group (35.63 +/- 14.12). Glutathione levels decreased significantly in the partial hepatectomy group and increased with preoperative single-dose NAC.

Conclusion: Partial hepatectomy resulted in oxidative disturbances in intestinal wall, which in turn gave rise to BT. Parenteral NAC protects the intestinal wall from oxidative injury and attenuates BT.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Translocation / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Hepatectomy
  • Intestines / drug effects*
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Acetylcysteine