In patients with cirrhosis of the liver elevated bilirubin concentrations in the plasma could be the result of decreased bilirubin excretion or an oveφroduction of bilirubin with insufficient excretion of the increased amounts of bilirubin. Under steady state conditions with constant serum bilirubin concentrations bilirubin synthesis equals biliary and urinary bilirubin excretion. In the present study in 10 healthy volunteers and 11 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and serum bilirubin concentrations of 7.0 ± 1.9 mg/dl the biliary excretion of bilirubin was studied by the intestinal perfusion method and compared with the excretion of bile lipids. Biliary excretion of bilirubin in the cirrhotics was 38.7 ± 8.8 μmol/h, the 10 healthy controls excreted 17.9 ± 0.9 μmol/h bilirubin. Only minor amounts of bilirubin were excreted in urine. In 4 of the 11 cirrhotics 51Cr-red blood cell half-lives were studied revealing ongoing hemolysis. Bilirubin production calculated from red cell life span was identical to biliary excretion of bilirubin with an error less than 5 %. The data indicate that in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver serum concentrations of bilirubin may be elevated due to oveφroduction of bilirubin and a concomitant decrease of the biliary transport capacity of bilirubin.

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