Background and aims: Increased levels of nitric oxide (NO) are hypothesized to contribute to renal dysfunction in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. In this study, we examined whether splanchnic and/or peripheral NO levels and L-arginine (L-Arg) correlate with progressive renal dysfunction in cirrhotics.
Methods: Serum NO metabolites (NOx) and L-Arg were measured in: controls (n = 10); organ donors (n = 12); compensated cirrhotics (n = 17), cirrhotics with ascites (n = 25), refractory ascites (n = 11) or hepatorenal syndrome type II (HRS) (n = 11) and chronic renal failure patients (n = 18).
Results: Plasma NOx and L-Arg levels rose progressively with worsening renal function in decompensated cirrhotics. Both NOx and L-Arg levels were highest in patients with HRS (P < 0.001 and P < 0.025, respectively). While there were no differences in NOx levels related to the site of sampling, L-Arg levels were lowest in hepatic venous blood. There were significant relationships of NOx and L-Arg with Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score and Child-Pugh scores (P < 0.04 and P < 0.01, respectively). Multivariate analysis showed a significant relationship between NOx, L-Arg and HRS.
Conclusion: Worsening renal function in decompensated cirrhosis is accompanied by progressive elevation in plasma NOx and L-Arg. These findings support the hypothesis that NO-mediated vasodilation is probably linked with the mechanism of progressive renal failure in decompensated cirrhotics.