Impaired pressor reactivity in cirrhosis: Evidence for a peripheral vascular defect

Authors

  • Alastair J. Macgilchrist M.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. University Department of Materia Medica, Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, Scotland
    Current affiliation:
    1. Gastrointestinal and Liver Service, The Royal Infirmary, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9YW, Scotland UK
    • Gastrointestinal and Liver Service, The Royal Infirmary, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9YW, Scotland UK
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  • David Sumner,

    1. University Department of Materia Medica, Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, Scotland
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  • John L. Reid

    1. University Department of Materia Medica, Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, Scotland
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Abstract

The blood pressure responses to intravenous infusions of norepinephrine and angiotensin II, sympathetic and nonsympathetic vasoconstricting agents, respectively, were measured in 20 patients with cirrhosis (10 Child-Pugh grade A and 10 Child-Pugh grades B or C) and in 20 healthy subjects. The log PD20 (dose of agonist required to raise blood pressure by 20 mm Hg) for norepinephrine was 4.78 ± 0.36 (mean ± S.D.) in patients with severe cirrhosis and 4.36 ± 0.37 in controls, p < 0.01. Log PD20 for angiotensin II was 3.16 ± 1.06 in patients with severe cirrhosis and 1.97 ± 0.74 in controls, p < 0.01. Cardiovascular responses to selective sympathetic agonists were measured in 10 other cirrhotic patients (all Child-Pugh grades B or C) and in 10 healthy controls. Log PD20s for phenylephrine, an α-1 adrenoceptor agonist, and for alphamethylnorepinephrine; an α-2 adrenoceptor agonist, were increased in cirrhosis (phenylephrine = 5.35 ± 0.49 vs. 4.95 ± 0.35, p < 0.05; alphamethylnorepinephrine = 4.05 ± 0.26 vs. 3.44 ± 0.55, p < 0.001). In contrast, log CD20 (dose of agonist required to raise the heart rate by 20 beats/min) for isoproterenol, a β-adrenoceptor agonist, was similar in cirrhotic patients and controls (2.81 ± 0.38 vs. 2.94 ± 0.45, p = 0.49). These studies demonstrate that pressor reactivity to both sympathetic and nonsympathetic agonists is impaired in severe cirrhosis, that the impaired sympathetic responses are not caused by generalized sympathetic desensitization and that the site common to the four agonists with impaired responses is the peripheral vascular smooth muscle. (HEPATOLOGY 1991;13:689–694.)

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