The hepatic microcirculation in the isolated perfused human liver



In cirrhosis, capillarization of sinusoids could result in impaired exchanges between the hepatocytes and the blood perfusing the liver and contribute to liver failure irrespective of the metabolic capacity of the liver. To characterize anomalies of the hepatic microcirculation, we used the multiple-indicator dilution approach in isolated perfused livers obtained from patients with cirrhosis at the time of transplantation, and from organ donors with normal or near-normal livers or hepatic steatosis. In organ donors, the sinusoidal volume and the permeability of sinusoids to albumin, sucrose, and water were found to be comparable to that of normal dog and rat livers. The sinusoidal volume and the extravascular volume (EVV) accessible to diffusible tracers were larger after hepatic artery than after portal vein injection, probably because of an unshared arterial sinusoidal bed. In cirrhotic livers, two kinds of alterations were found: the appearance of a barrier between the sinusoids and the hepatocytes (capillarization) and intrahepatic shunts. The extravascular space accessible to albumin decreased with increasing severity of cirrhosis, and the diffusion of sucrose in the space of Disse showed a barrier-limited pattern, instead of the normal flow-limited behavior. In cirrhotic livers, a correlation was found between the hepatic extraction of indocyanine green (ICG) and the extravascular space accessible to albumin (r = .84, P < .05), suggesting that the impaired access of this protein-bound dye to the hepatocyte surface contributed to its impaired elimination. Intrahepatic shunts were found between portal and hepatic vein (21% ± 16% of portal flow), but not between hepatic artery and hepatic veins. We conclude that (1) the behavior of diffusible tracers in human livers with normal liver architecture is comparable to that reported in normal animals; (2) the permeability of sinusoids in cirrhotic livers is abnormal, (3) permeability changes are related to changes in liver function in cirrhosis.