In the course of alcoholic chronic pancreatitis, increased serum alkaline phosphatase level is usually caused by common bile duct stenosis but may also be due to alcoholic liver disease. The aims of this prospective study were to investigate whether clinical, biochemical and radiological factors could predict liver histopathological appearance. The study comprised 48 patients with chronic alcoholic pancreatitis, common bile duct stenosis and increased serum alkaline phosphatase levels; clinical, biochemical, radiological and histological data were recorded in all cases. Liver biopsy examination (surgical [n = 45] or intercostal [n = 3]) showed (a) biliary obstructive liver abnormalities (n = 33), which were severe in 20 cases (biliary fibrosis in 15, secondary biliary cirrhosis in 3, secondary sclerosing cholangitis in 2) and moderate in 13 cases; (b) alcoholic liver disease in 9; and (c) normal liver in 6. Clinical, biochemical and radiological data were not statistically different between patients with biliary obstructive liver disease and those with alcoholic liver disease. Forty-five patients underwent surgery; two patients with alcoholic hepatitis died after surgery, at the beginning of this study. We conclude that in chronic alcoholic pancreatitis with common bile duct stenosis and increased serum alkaline phosphatase levels, clinical, biochemical and radiological data cannot be used to predict the type of liver lesions. Therefore liver biopsy is warranted to identify (a) alcoholic hepatitis, which increases operative risk; and (b) biliary obstructive liver disease, frequent and often severe, in which surgical biliary decompression should be considered. (HEPATOLOGY 1993;1078-1081).
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