1. Functional renal failure (FRF) in cirrhosis with ascites could be related to an inappropriately low renal prostaglandin (PG) production. To investigate whether the impaired renal PG synthesis in these patients is related to a PG precursor fatty acid deficiency, serum levels of linoleic and arachidonic acids and the urinary excretion of PGE2, 6-keto-PGF and thromboxane B2 (TxB2) were measured in 10 normal subjects, 17 non-azotaemic cirrhotic patients with ascites and 10 cirrhotic patients with ascites and FRF.

2. Serum linoleic acid levels were similar in the three groups studied. Both groups of cirrhotic patients showed lower arachidonic acid levels than normal subjects; however, non-azotaemic cirrhotic patients and patients with FRF did not differ in relation to serum arachidonic acid.

3. Non-azotaemic cirrhotic patients had higher urinary PGE2, 6-keto-PGF and TxB2 excretion than normal subjects and cirrhotic patients with FRF. Patients with FRF showed similar urinary PGE2 and TxB2 and lower urinary 6-keto-PGF than normal subjects. In all cirrhotic patients no significant correlation was found between serum linoleic and arachidonic acid levels and urinary PGs.

4. In seven patients with FRF an acute intravenous infusion of linoleic acid induced a marked increase in serum levels of this fatty acid. However, no increase in serum arachidonic acid levels and urinary PG excretion and no improvement in renal function was observed.

5. This study suggests that an arachidonic acid deficiency is present in cirrhotic patients with ascites but that this abnormality is not a major determinant of renal function and PG production in these patients. Acute intravenous administration of linoleic acid is not associated with any change in renal PG production and renal function in cirrhotic patients with FRF.

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