We studied the hepatic functional reserve in the lobes of the liver in 28 patients with chronic liver disease and 13 controls using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging with a radiolabeled asialoglycoprotein analog, Technetium-99m-diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid-galactosyl-human serum albumin (Tc-99m GSA). Counts of Tc-99m GSA radioactivity in the liver on SPECT images significantly correlated (P < .0001) with the serum albumin level (r = .612), log (serum cholinesterase activity) (r = .618), serum bilirubin level (r = .628), prothrombin time (r = .715), hepaplastin test (r = .637), and indocyanine green retention rate at 15 minutes (r = .771), making it possible to estimate the distribution of functional reserve in the liver based on counts. Using the intact hepatocyte theory, we estimated the number of viable hepatocytes based on the counts. With progression of hepatic functional degeneration, counts per unit hepatic volume decreased (ρ = .779, P < .0001), and left lobe to right lobe ratio of this parameter increased (ρ = .491, P = .0019) significantly. These findings suggest that the reduction of hepatic functional reserve per unit hepatic volume and numerical density of the hepatocytes, and the proliferation of fibrosis in patients with chronic liver disease is slower in the left lobe than in the right. We discuss a possible biological basis for these apparent lobar differences and for hepatic morphological changes seen in cirrhosis.
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