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Abstract

The liver histopathology in 40 liver biopsies from 24 patients with verified chronic common bile duct stenosis due to chronic alcoholic pancreatitis has been reviewed code-blinded. This represents an 8% prevalence of this complication in approximately 300 patients with alcoholic pancreatitis screened biochemically for alkaline phosphatase >two-fold for >1 month. The majority were anicteric with no symptoms other than from acute exacerbations of chronic pancreatitis. Biliary obstructive liver histopathology of varying severity was diagnosed in 19 patients (79%), seven of whom (29%) had secondary biliary cirrhosis. In 3 of these 7 cases, progression to biliary cirrhosis was documented with sequential biopsies. The remainder demonstrated this histologic picture when first diagnosed, supporting the insidious nature of this process. Stromal edema of the portal tracts, increased portal connective tissue, and marked proliferation of interlobular bile ducts and ductules were the most striking histologic features. Histologic cholangitis, although frequent, was generally mild or absent, reflecting the incomplete nature of the duct obstruction. Features of alcoholic liver disease were observed in only two cases. The results indicate that (1) chronic alcoholic pancreatitis with incomplete duct obstruction frequently causes secondary biliary cirrhosis, (2) significant alcoholic liver disease very infrequently coexists with persistent common bile duct stricture from alcoholic pancreatitis, and (3) surgical biliary decompression should be considered in any patient with documented persistent common bile duct stenosis from alcoholic pancreatitis.