1. The systemic and splanchnic haemodynamic effects of pentifylline (40 mg/kg body weight intravenously) were assessed in rats with portal hypertension associated either with CCl4-induced cirrhosis (n= 13) or portal vein ligation (n=13).

2. Heparinized catheters were placed into the portal vein, inferior vena cava, aorta and left ventricle with exits from the neck. Haemodynamic studies were performed 4 h after consciousness was regained. Cardiac output and regional blood flows were measured using radiolabelled microspheres and the reference sample method in seven rats in each group; portal-systemic shunting was measured using microsphere injection in the ileo-colic vein in six rats in each group.

3. Forty-five minutes after injection, pentifylline had no effect on mean arterial pressure, cardiac output, peripheral resistance, portal venous flow, hepatic artery flow or portal-systemic shunting in either group of rats with portal hypertension. The drug lowered portal pressure (−18%) in cirrhotic rats, but not in portal-vein-ligated rats.

4. These data demonstrate that pentifylline lowers portal pressure in cirrhotic rats without affecting portal venous flow and portal-systemic shunting; this effect is possibly mediated by changes in intrahepatic resistance related to the effects of pentifylline on blood viscosity and/or on intrahepatic vasomotor tone.

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