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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Surgery 1/2017

Atorvastatin does not protect against ischemia-reperfusion damage in cholestatic rat livers

BMC Surgery > Ausgabe 1/2017
Jimme K. Wiggers, Rowan F. van Golen, Joanne Verheij, Annemiek M. Dekker, Thomas M. van Gulik, Michal Heger



Extrahepatic cholestasis sensitizes the liver to ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury during surgery for perihilar cholangiocarcinoma. It is associated with pre-existent sterile inflammation, microvascular perfusion defects, and impaired energy status. Statins have been shown to protect against I/R injury in normal and steatotic mouse livers. Therefore, the hepatoprotective properties of atorvastatin were evaluated in a rat model of cholestatic I/R injury.


Male Wistar rats were subjected to 70% hepatic ischemia (during 30 min) at 7 days after bile duct ligation. Rats were randomized to atorvastatin treatment or vehicle-control in three test arms: (1) oral treatment with 5 mg/kg during 7 days after bile duct ligation; (2) intravenous treatment with 2.5, 5, or 7.5 mg/kg at 24 h before ischemia; and (3) intravenous treatment with 5 mg/kg at 30 min before ischemia. Hepatocellular damage was assessed by plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and histological necrosis.


I/R induced severe hepatocellular injury in the cholestatic rat livers (~10-fold increase in ALT at 6 h after I/R and ~30% necrotic areas at 24 h after I/R). Both oral and intravenous atorvastatin treatment decreased ALT levels before ischemia. Intravenous atorvastatin treatment at 5 mg/kg at 24 h before ischemia was the only regimen that reduced ALT levels at 6 h after reperfusion, but not at 24 h after reperfusion. None of the tested regimens were able to reduce histological necrosis at 24 h after reperfusion.


Pre-treatment with atorvastatin did not protect cholestatic livers from hepatocellular damage after I/R. Clinical studies investigating the role of statins in the protection against hepatic I/R injury should not include cholestatic patients with perihilar cholangiocarcinoma. These patients require (pharmacological) interventions that specifically target the cholestasis-associated hepatopathology.
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