The mechanism of improved sodium homeostasis of low-dose losartan in preascitic cirrhosis



Renal sodium retention on standing is one aspect of the abnormal renal sodium handling in preascitic, well-compensated patients with cirrhosis. Recently, it has been shown that low doses (7.5 mg) of the angiotensin II (Ang II) receptor antagonist, losartan, can reverse renal sodium retention on high, 200-mmol sodium/d diet in these patients and restore them to sodium balance. Therefore, the effect of 7.5 mg of losartan on sodium excretion, when changing from supine to erect posture for 2 hours, was examined in 10 well-compensated patients with cirrhosis and 9 age- and sex-matched controls on the same sodium diet, under strictly controlled metabolic conditions. In contrast to control subjects, in whom sodium excretion was unaffected, single 7.5-mg doses of losartan again restored the preascitic patients with cirrhosis to sodium balance. In addition, it blunted the fall in erect posture– induced renal sodium excretion by a reduction in proximal and distal tubular reabsorption of sodium. These changes occurred without any significant changes in blood volumes, systemic and renal hemodynamics, or glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and filtered sodium load compared with controls, and despite activation of the systemic renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, which was still within normal levels. In conclusion, the beneficial natriuretic effects of low-dose losartan on erect posture – induced sodium retention in preascitic cirrhosis supports the suggestion that the pathophysiology of sodium retention in preascites is in part caused by an intrarenal tubular effect of Ang II in that posture.