Vanishing Bile Duct Syndrome: A Possible Mechanism for Intrahepatic Cholestasis in Hodgkin's Lymphoma



A syndrome of idiopathic intrahepatic cholestasis occurs in some patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma. The underlying mechanism is poorly understood. In this paper we describe three patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma in whom severe intrahepatic cholestasis of unknown pathogenesis developed. In two cases jaundice was the presenting symptom; all three patients died with intractable liver damage. The three patients were initially thought to have idiopathic Hodgkin's-associated cholestasis, but subsequent review of histological material revealed advanced vanishing bile duct syndrome in addition to severe cholestasis. Ten liver specimens were obtained from 4 to 97 wk after the onset of jaundice (seven needle biopsies, one wedge biopsy, two postmortem livers). In seven liver specimens taken within 30 wk of the onset of jaundice, portal tracts characteristically had a “hurned-out” appearance without secondary periportal changes related to chronic cholestasis. Three biopsy specimens obtained from one of the patients more than 1 yr after the onset of jaundice showed evidence of progressive periportal damage in the form of fibrous expansion, marginal ductular proliferation and copper-associated protein deposition. More than 80% of small portal tracts lacked recognizable bile ducts in the final liver specimens obtained from the three patients. These observations suggest that Hodgkin's lymphoma should be included in the list of diseases associated with loss of intrahepatic bile ducts. The possibility of a vanishing bile duct syndrome should be considered in the differential diagnosis of unexplained intrahepatic cholestasis in patients with Hodgkin's disease. (HEPATOLOGY 1993;17:70–77.)