Long-term renal sodium handling in patients with cirrhosis treated with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts for refractory ascites

W Wong, P Liu, L Blendis, F Wong
American Journal of Medicine 1999, 106 (3): 315-22

PURPOSE: The long-term effects of transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts on renal sodium excretion are not known. We sought to determine these long-term effects, as well as to measure the effects of a sodium load in patients who are free of ascites.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Ten patients with cirrhosis who had been successfully treated with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt for refractory ascites were studied before the shunt and again at 6 and 14 months after the shunt while on a 22 mmol sodium/day diet. At 14 months they were also studied on a 200 mmol sodium/day diet for 7 days without diuretics. Renal sodium handling, central blood volume, neurohumoral factors, and hepatic function were measured.

RESULTS: Sodium balance was negative at 6 months (urinary sodium excretion [mean +/- SD] 51 +/- 11 mmol/day versus 7 +/- 2 mmol/day pre-shunt; P < 0.05), was maintained at 14 months (22 +/- 4 mmol/day; P < 0.05 versus pre-shunt), and was associated with normalization of renin activity and aldosterone levels, but not norepinephrine levels, as well as significantly improved renal hemodynamic measurements. Sodium loading with 200 mmol/day resulted in weight gain associated with increased central blood volume and appropriate renal sodium handling in most but not all patients (urinary sodium excretion 188 +/- 14 mmol/day), despite persistent nonsuppressibility of sympathetic hyperactivity.

CONCLUSIONS: In cirrhotic patients with refractory ascites treated with a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt, long-term renal sodium handling is improved. Adequate intravascular filling in ascites-free cirrhotic patients with normal portal pressure permits an improved but not normalized renal response to a sodium load, possibly due to persistently elevated sympathetic activity. Therefore, these patients should increase their sodium intake cautiously.

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