Effects of L-arginine on the systemic, mesenteric, and hepatic circulation in patients with cirrhosis

Hepatology. 1998 Feb;27(2):377-82. doi: 10.1002/hep.510270210.


Nitric oxide (NO) is known to play an important role in modulating both the hepatic and mesenteric circulation under physiological and pathological conditions. We investigated how L-arginine, a precursor of NO, modifies the hepatic and mesenteric circulation in patients with cirrhosis. The study design was a single-blind controlled study. We measured the systemic and portal hemodynamics before and following intravenous L-arginine and saline infusion using pulsed Doppler ultrasonography in 20 patients with cirrhosis, and then the effects were compared with those found in 20 healthy subjects. In these patients, the effects of L-arginine on hepatic circulation were investigated using hepatic catheterization. L-Arginine infusion induced systemic vasodilation in both the healthy controls and the cirrhotic patients in a similar hemodynamic manner. In these patients, the L-arginine-induced increase in the portal flow was significantly higher than that of cardiac output (CO); however, the relation was the inverse in healthy subjects. Moreover, the L-arginine-induced increase in the portal flow was greater in the cirrhotic patients than that seen in healthy subjects. As a result, L-arginine infusion was thus found to selectively augment the hepatopetal portal blood flow in the cirrhotic liver. In patients, L-arginine infusion induced marked hepatic vasodilation as demonstrated by the reduced hepatic sinusoidal resistance (HSR) and increased estimated hepatic blood flow (EHBF) associated with the ameliorated intrinsic clearance of indocyanine green. Despite the fall in HSR, the hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) increased following L-arginine infusion. The mesenteric and hepatic vascular areas of cirrhosis exhibited an increased susceptibility to the dilator action of L-arginine. These findings suggest that the enhanced NO production in the splanchnic vascular area has an important role in the hepatic circulation in patients with cirrhosis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arginine / pharmacology*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / blood
  • Blood Circulation / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Circulation / drug effects*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrates / urine
  • Sodium / urine
  • Splanchnic Circulation / drug effects*
  • Urodynamics / drug effects


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Nitrates
  • Arginine
  • Sodium