BACKGROUND: Increased nitric oxide production in cirrhosis has been commonly implicated in the genesis of hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS). Initial studies suggested that garlic, a constituent of the daily diet, may have a role in the treatment of HPS by altering nitric oxide production.OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of oral garlic supplementation on arterial blood gas parameters, and overall morbidity and mortality in patients with HPS.METHODS: Twenty-one and 20 HPS patients were randomly assigned to receive either oral garlic supplementation or placebo, respectively, and were evaluated monthly over a period of nine to 18 months.RESULTS: After nine months, garlic supplementation was associated with a 24.66% increase in baseline arterial oxygen levels (83.05 mmHg versus 66.62 mmHg; P<0.001), compared with only a 7.37% increase (68.75 mmHg versus 64.05 mmHg; P=0.02) among subjects in the placebo group. There was also a 28.35% decrease in alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient (21.35 mmHg versus 29.77 mmHg; P<0.001) among patients with HPS who received garlic, in contrast with only a 10.73% decrease (29.11 mmHg versus 32.61 mmHg; P=0.12) among those in the placebo group. After nine months, the arterial oxygen level was significantly higher (83.05 mmHg versus 68.75 mmHg; P<0.001) and the alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient was significantly lower (21.35 mmHg versus 29.11 mmHg; P<0.001) among patients receiving garlic compared with those receiving placebo. Reversal of HPS was observed in 14 of 21 patients (66.67%) on garlic supplementation (intent-to-treat analysis) and in one of 20 patients (5%) on placebo. Two of 21 patients undergoing garlic supplementation died during follow-up in contrast to seven of 20 patients who were on placebo.CONCLUSIONS: Garlic supplementation may be beneficial in patients with HPS for the reversal of intrapulmonary shunts as well as reducing hypoxemia and mortality.