Journal Article
. 2004 Jun; 49(4):621-6.
doi: 10.1023/b:ddas.0000026307.56909.21.

Assessment of intestinal permeability and absorption in cirrhotic patients with ascites using combined sugar probes

Marc J Zuckerman 1 Ian S Menzies  Hoi Ho  Gavin G Gregory  Nancy A Casner  Roger S Crane  Jesus A Hernandez  
  • PMID: 15185867
  •     34 References
  •     21 citations


Gastrointestinal dysfunction in patients with cirrhosis may contribute to complications such as malnutrition and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. To determine whether cirrhotic patients with ascites have altered intestinal function, we compared intestinal permeability and absorption in patients with liver disease and normal subjects. Intestinal permeability and absorption were investigated in 66 cirrhotic patients (48 with ascites, 18 without ascites) and 74 healthy control subjects. Timed recovery of 3-O-methyl-D-glucose, D-xylose, L-rhamnose, and lactulose in urine following oral administration was measured in order to assess active and passive carrier-mediated, and nonmediated, absorptive capacity, as well as intestinal large-pore/small-pore (lactulose/rhamnose) permeability. Test sugars were measured by quantitative thin-layer chromatography and results are expressed as a percentage of test dose recovered in a 5-h urine collection. Sugar excretion ratios relating to small intestinal permeability (lactulose/rhamnose) and absorption (rhamnose/3-O-methyl-D-glucose) were calculated to avoid the effects of nonmucosal factors such as renal clearance, portal hypertension, and ascites on the recovery of sugar probes in urine. Compared with normal subjects, the mean lactulose/rhamnose permeability ratio in cirrhotic patients with ascites was significantly higher (0.058 vs. 0.037, P < 0.001) but not in cirrhotic patients without ascites (0.041 vs. 0.037). Cirrhotic patients with ascites had significantly lower mean recoveries of 3-O-methyl-D-glucose (23.0 vs. 49.1%; P < 0.001), D-xylose (18.8 vs. 34.5%; P < 0.001), L-rhamnose (4.0 vs. 9.1%; P < 0.001), and lactulose (0.202 vs. 0.337%; P < 0.001) than normal subjects. However, the mean rhamnose/3-O-methyl-D-glucose ratio was the same in cirrhotic patients with ascites as normal subjects (0.189 vs. 0.189), indicating that the reduction in probe recovery was due to nonmucosal factors. Compared with normal subjects, cirrhotic patients with ascites have abnormal intestinal permeability, measured by urinary lactulose/rhamnose excretion, and normal small intestinal absorption, assessed by the urinary rhamnose/3-O-methyl-D-glucose ratio. Low urine recovery of sugar probes found in cirrhotic patients appears to be the result of nonintestinal factors affecting clearance rather than reduced intestinal absorption.

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