Liver cell dysplasia: What is its significance?



Liver cell dysplasia (LCD) was investigated for hepatitis B virus (HBV) markers, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and ferritin by serologic and immuno-histochemical methods in 101 patients with cirrhosis. LCD was found in 30 cases (29.7%), with the highest incidence in cases of posthepatitic cirrhosis (67%). In the group of dysplastic cirrhosis (DC) 46.6% of the patients had active HBV infection (hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg] serum positivity) compared with 7% of the patients with nondysplastic cirrhosis (NDC) (P < 0.01). The mean serum AFP concentration was significantly raised in the DC group compared with that in the NDC group (P < 0.05). In seven patients with LCD at the initial biopsy, the histologic follow-up showed the persistence of LCD in all cases, and the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in three cases. In serologic HBsAg-positive cases, dysplastic cells, at variance with the surrounding liver parenchyma, were almost always negative for tissue HBsAg, and always negative for tissue hepatitis B core antigens (HBcAg). AFP was never detected in either normal or dysplastic cells. Ferritin was found in all cases, but dysplastic foci displayed a lesser amount of this protein. These serologic and immunohistochemical data strongly suggest a preneoplastic significance of LCD. The importance of monitoring cirrhotic patients with LCD and particularly those with HBV infection and/or increased AFP levels with more aggressive follow-up is also stressed.

An assessment was made of the frequency of liver cell dysplasia and the mean age of each group in 56 normal, 13 cirrhotic, and 50 hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients, 40 with cirrhosis, from southern Africa. Dysplasia increased from 7.1% in normal subjects to 38.5% in cirrhotic, 40% in non-cirrhotic HCC, and 52.5% in cirrhotic HCC patients, three statistically similar frequencies. Average patient ages were as follows: patients with normal livers, 37.3 years; with cirrhosis, 42.4 years; with noncirrhotic HCC, 36.5 years; and with cirrhotic HCC, 34 years, the mean age with dysplasia being lower than that of the whole group. With no increase in frequency of dysplasia from cirrhosis to HCC with cirrhosis, with a similar high frequency in HCC without cirrhosis, and with a mean age of all HCC patients 8 years less than that of cirrhotics and 3 years less than normals, chronologic evolutionary progression from cirrhosis to dysplasia to HCC in southern Africa cannot be demonstrated.