Nikolaj Worm Ørntoft

Alcoholic Hepatitis Markedly Decreases the Capacity for Urea Synthesis

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BACKGROUND AND AIM: Data on quantitative metabolic liver functions in the life-threatening disease alcoholic hepatitis are scarce. Urea synthesis is an essential metabolic liver function that plays a key regulatory role in nitrogen homeostasis. The urea synthesis capacity decreases in patients with compromised liver function, whereas it increases in patients with inflammation. Alcoholic hepatitis involves both mechanisms, but how these opposite effects are balanced remains unclear. Our aim was to investigate how alcoholic hepatitis affects the capacity for urea synthesis. We related these findings to another measure of metabolic liver function, the galactose elimination capacity (GEC), as well as to clinical disease severity.

METHODS: We included 20 patients with alcoholic hepatitis and 7 healthy controls. The urea synthesis capacity was quantified by the functional hepatic nitrogen clearance (FHNC), i.e., the slope of the linear relationship between the blood α-amino nitrogen concentration and urea nitrogen synthesis rate during alanine infusion. The GEC was determined using blood concentration decay curves after intravenous bolus injection of galactose. Clinical disease severity was assessed by the Glasgow Alcoholic Hepatitis Score and Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score.

RESULTS: The FHNC was markedly decreased in the alcoholic hepatitis patients compared with the healthy controls (7.2±4.9 L/h vs. 37.4±6.8 L/h, P<0.01), and the largest decrease was observed in those with severe alcoholic hepatitis (4.9±3.6 L/h vs. 9.9±4.9 L/h, P<0.05). The GEC was less markedly reduced than the FHNC. A negative correlation was detected between the FHNC and MELD score (rho = -0.49, P<0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Alcoholic hepatitis markedly decreases the urea synthesis capacity. This decrease is associated with an increase in clinical disease severity. Thus, the metabolic failure in alcoholic hepatitis prevails such that the liver cannot adequately perform the metabolic up-regulation observed in other stressful states, including extrahepatic inflammation, which may contribute to the patients' poor prognosis.

TidsskriftPLOS ONE
Sider (fra-til)e0158388
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 2016

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