OBJECTIVES: Impaired intestinal permeability (IP) may have a role in the pathogenesis of ascites and in spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) in patients with liver cirrhosis (LC). The aim of this study was to assess IP in LC patients with respect to healthy controls.
METHODS: IP was evaluated by the (51)Cr-ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid ((51)Cr-EDTA) permeability test in 52 LC patients and in 48 sex- and age-matched controls. The presence of (51)Cr-EDTA was also evaluated in ascitic fluid after therapeutic paracentesis in all LC patients with ascites.
RESULTS: An altered IP was found in 45% of LC patients compared with 4% of controls (P<0.00001). IP impairment was significantly associated with Child-Pugh status (75% of Child C patients vs. 39% of Child B and 22% of Child A patients), with the presence of ascites (60% in ascitic patients vs. 31% in nonascitic patients), and with a history of SBP (100% of patients with SBP vs. 50% of those without SBP). (51)Cr-EDTA was present in all ascitic samples obtained from patients with SBP compared with 22% of patients without SBP.
CONCLUSIONS: IP derangement was a common finding in LC, especially in patients with more advanced disease (presence of ascites and history of SBP). The presence of (51)Cr-EDTA in ascites in patients with SBP suggests an altered permeability of splancnic vessels and/or peritoneal membranes. Further studies are required to assess (51)Cr-EDTA urine and ascite cutoffs to set up SBP preventive strategies.