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Liver function deterioration is a major cause of death in variceal bleeding. The effects of bleeding on intrahepatic microvascular dysfunction, which contributes to liver injury in cirrhosis, are largely unknown. The aims of this study were to evaluate the impact of hemorrhage/resuscitation (H/R) on cirrhotic microcirculation, and whether simvastatin, a drug that improves liver microcirculation, has hepatoprotective effects. The study was performed in three groups of rats: controls, rats with biliary cirrhosis (CBDL), and CBDL rats pretreated with three doses (5 mg x kg-1 x day-1) of simvastatin. Rats were submitted to H/R or sham procedure. Subsequently, livers were isolated and perfused for functional assessment of liver microcirculation. Liver transcriptome was assessed with microarrays. H/R significantly impaired endothelial-dependent vasorelaxation in cirrhotic (P = 0.035) but not control livers. H/R induced a similar increase in ALT in control and cirrhotic rats, whereas the increase in AST was 10 times higher in cirrhotic than in control rats (P = 0.007). Simvastatin prevented the impairment in endothelial-dependent vasorelaxation induced by H/R, and reduced by half the increase in ALT and AST (P < 0.05). Transcriptomics showed a marked upregulation of genes related to inflammatory response after H/R in cirrhotic livers, but not in controls, and this was blunted by simvastatin. In conclusion, H/R aggravates liver microvascular dysfunction in cirrhosis, and upregulates liver inflammatory pathways. This does not occur in control livers. Simvastatin prevented H/R-induced liver endothelial dysfunction, and attenuated liver injury and liver inflammatory response, suggesting that it might have potential for protecting the cirrhotic liver during bleeding complications.

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