Brief Periods of Hypoxia Can Produce Hepatic Injury in Rats

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To determine whether brief periods of hypoxia could produce hepatic injury, we pretreated Sprague-Dawley rats with phenobarbital, deprived them of food for 24 hr, and then exposed them to various hypoxic mixtures of nitrogen and oxygen for various lengths of time. Rats exposed to 6% oxygen for 15 or more minutes had centrilobular injury, the severity of which was directly related to the length of exposure (r = 0.71). Extrapolation of these data indicated that no injury would occur if exposures were less than 5 min. Experiments using lower concentrations of oxygen did not reveal hepatic injury, probably because death of the animals occurred before the appearance of detectable injury of the liver. Feeding animals before imposition of hypoxia markedly decreased the risk of hepatic injury. Whether patients who are deprived of food preoperatively and whose liver enzymes are induced incur an increased risk of hepatic injury from brief periods of hypoxia remains to be determined.

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