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A. V. Greco, L. Altomonte, G. Ghirlanda, L. M. D'Anna, R. Manna, S. Caputo and L. Uccioli

Abstract. The present study was undertaken in order to establish the significance of glucagon in glucose intolerance in liver cirrhosis. The plasma glucose response to an oral glucose load (75 g) was determined in 10 control subjects and in 10 cirrhotic patients, after infusions of: glucagon (3 ng·kg−1·min−1) or saline (154 mmol/l); somatostatin (SRIH) (500 μg/h); and SRIH plus glucagon (3 ng·kg−1·min−1). Glucagon infusion did not impair glucose tolerance, neither in normal subjects nor in patients with cirrhosis. On the other hand, in both groups glucose tolerance was impaired by SRIH infusion, presumably owing to an absolute insulin deficiency. Both in normal subjects and in cirrhotic patients, SRIH plus glucagon infusion further impaired glucose tolerance, presumably as a result of excess glucagon and concomitant insulin deficiency. In conclusion, our data show that hyperglucagonemia is not an important factor in the development of the glucose intolerance in patients with hepatic cirrhosis.