1. The zinc status and drug-metabolizing ability of 15 patients with histologically diagnosed hepatic cirrhosis were studied. Zinc status was assessed using both serum and leucocyte zinc concentrations, and drug-metabolizing ability was assessed by antipyrine kinetics.
2. Patients with cirrhosis were found to have lower serum and leucocyte zinc concentrations when compared with a healthy control group.
3. Leucocyte zinc content and antipyrine clearance were correlated. Those patients with the lowest leucocyte zinc content had the greatest impairment of drug metabolism. Antipyrine elimination and serum zinc concentrations were not correlated.
4. Leucocyte zinc concentrations and antipyrine clearance were not influenced by the severity of liver dysfunction, as assessed by using the Child Turcotte classification.
5. These results suggest that tissue zinc depletion in some patients with hepatic cirrhosis may explain in part the impaired capacity to metabolize drugs.