1. Splanchnic extraction rates of adrenaline and noradrenaline were determined in seven normal subjects and in nine patients with cirrhosis of the liver using arterial-hepatic venous catherization.
2. Both catecholamines were effectively removed when the blood passed through the splanchnic area: splanchnic fractional uptake of adrenaline in normal subjects was 90 ± 3%, and lower for noradrenaline, 68 ± 4% (P < 0.001). Net splanchnic extraction rates were higher for noradrenaline (126 ± 16 ng/min) than for adrenaline (40 ± 10 ng/min, P < 0.001), probably due to the higher arterial plasma levels of noradrenaline.
3. Resting arterial adrenaline and noradrenaline levels were significantly higher in cirrhotic patients than in normal subjects (adrenaline: 121 ± 27 vs 54 ± 8 pg/ml, P < 0.05; noradrenaline: 678 ± 89 vs 251 ± 26 pg/ml, P < 0.005). Net splanchnic catecholamine uptake was increased in cirrhotic patients.
4. The results demonstrate that the splanchnic bed in normal and cirrhotic subjects extracts plasma catecholamines efficiently; they suggest that elevated plasma catecholamines in cirrhosis are not the result of impaired splanchnic catecholamine removal.