In this study, 15 healthy volunteers and 96 patients with hepatitis C virus, classified according to Child-Pugh into 36 Child-A, 31 Child-B and 29 Child-C, were examined. All subjects ingested 600 mg antipyrine in the form of hard gelatinous capsules after overnight fasting. One milliliter of saliva was collected at 4 and 24 h after ingestion of antipyrine and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography. Blood samples were collected from all subjects for examination, using conventional liver function tests. The pharmacokinetic variables for antipyrine were determined using the two concentration time points selected. A cut-off value of 0.34 ml/min/kg was used to distinguish between cirrhotic and non-cirrhotic patients. Alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transferase values were significantly higher with significantly lower antipyrine clearance in Child-A, B, and C patients than in normal volunteers. The total protein concentration was significantly lower in Child-B and C patients. Moreover, AST was significantly higher in Child-C patients and antipyrine clearance was lower in Child-B and C patients than in Child-A patients. Antipyrine clearance showed a significant negative correlation with Child-Pugh scores, total protein, the international normalization ratio of prothrombin time and globulin, and a positive correlation with albumin and albumin-to-globulin ratio. Unlike most of the conventional liver function tests, antipyrine clearance, which represents the intrinsic clearance capacity of the liver, measured using saliva, proved to be a sensitive marker of liver function. It was significantly impaired in the Child-Pugh group A patients with the least hepatic impairment. The international normalization ratio of prothrombin time was just as informative as antipyrine clearance in identifying minimal hepatic impairment.