Shedding light into the black box of childhood cholestatic liver disease



This work details the histologic findings in 84 liver biopsy specimens from 28 patients with progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC), who met the clinical criteria of early onset of chronic unremitting cholestasis, exclusion of any known metabolic or anatomic etiology, and low serum γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP) values. Hepato-canalicular cholestasis and disruption of the liver cell plate arrangement were early, uniform findings, and giant cell transformation was found in 56% of initial biopsies. Duct loss was a prominent finding; 70% of patients had ductal paucity, and many had abnormal bile duct epithelium, suggesting degeneration. Fibrosis was seen in the samples from 16 patients, including bridging fibrosis in specimens obtained from six patients during the first 2 years of life. Proliferating ductules at the margins of portal tracts increased as fibrosis progressed and were especially prominent in end-stage histology. Cirrhosis developed in nine of these patients and had a characteristic histologic pattern, consisting of biliary cirrhosis with diffuse stellate lobular fibrosis associated with severe cholestasis and pseudoacinar transformation. Mallory hyalin and hepatocellular carcinoma were observed in materials from some patients with advanced cirrhosis. The constellation of histologic findings in PFIC forms a recognizable pattern, and the liver histology appears to have a predictable progression. Key Words: Familial cholestasis—Byler disease—Giant cell hepatitis—Ductal paucity—Cirrhosis—Hepatocellular carcinoma.

The clinical findings in 33 patients with progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC) are presented. Symptoms developed almost invariably before 6 months of age with severe pruritus and moderate jaundice. Other clinical findings included wheezing and nosebleeds, fat-soluble vitamin deficiency states, and cholelithiasis. Lower values for γglutamyl transpeptidase, averaging 15 IU/L before the administration of phenobarbital, and cholesterol, which averaged 156 mg/dl, are helpful in distinguishing PFIC from other pediatric cholestatic liver diseases. Autosomal recessive inheritance is probable. Twenty-six patients are alive at 12.9± 6.7 years of age, all having had successful surgical treatment, either partial biliary diversion (n = 17) or orthotopic liver transplantation (n = 10). Seven patients died at a mean age of 3.9 ± 2.4 years, as a result of liver failure in two, hepatocellular carcinoma in two, and complications of liver transplantation in three. Key Words: Byler disease-Ductal paucity-Surgical therapy for cholestatic liver disease-γGlutamy1 transpeptidase.