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Crit Care Med. 2000 Dec;28(12):3799-807.

N-acetylcysteine increases liver blood flow and improves liver function in septic shock patients: results of a prospective, randomized, double-blind study.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Operative Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Germany.



In septic shock, decreased splanchnic blood flow is reported, despite adequate systemic hemodynamics. Aacetylcysteine (NAC) was found to increase hepatosplanchnic blood flow in experimental settings. In septic shock patients, NAC improved the clearance of indocyanine green and the relationship of systemic oxygen consumption to oxygen demand. We investigated the influence of NAC on liver blood flow, hepatosplanchnic oxygen transport-related variables, and liver function during early septic shock.


Prospective, randomized, double-blind study.


Septic shock patients admitted to an interdisciplinary surgical intensive care unit.


We examined 60 septic shock patients within 24 hrs after onset of sepsis. They were conventionally resuscitated with volume and inotropes and were in stable condition. A gastric tonometer was inserted into the stomach and a catheter into the hepatic vein. Microsomal liver function was assessed by using the plasma appearance of monoethylglycinexylidide (MEGX).


Subjects randomly received either a bolus of 150 mg/kg iv NAC over 15 mins and a subsequent continuous infusion of 12.5 mg/kg/hr NAC over 90 mins (n = 30) or placebo (n = 30).


Measurements were performed before (baseline) and 60 mins after beginning the infusion (infusion). After NAC, a significant increase in absolute liver blood flow index (2.7 vs. 3.3 L/min/m2; p = .01) and cardiac index (5.0 vs. 5.7 L/min/m2; p = .02) was observed. Fractional liver blood flow index (cardiac index-related liver blood flow index) did not change. The difference between arterial and gastric mucosal carbon dioxide tension decreased (p = .05) and MEGX increased (p = .04). Liver blood flow index and MEGX correlated significantly (r(s) = .57; p < or = .01).


After NAC treatment, hepatosplanchnic flow and function improved and may, therefore, suggest enhanced nutritive blood flow. The increase of liver blood flow index was not caused by redistribution to the hepatosplanchnic area, but by an increase of cardiac index. Because of its correlation with liver blood flow index, MEGX may be helpful in identifying patients who benefit from NAC treatment in early septic shock.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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