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Abstract

The clinicopathological features of 38 patients admitted consecutively for fulminant hepatic failure were studied. Histopathological material was reviewed in all patients. Both percutaneous and whole livers (either explanted or autopsy specimens) were available in 16 patients: whole livers only in 12 patients and biopsy specimens only in 10 patients. All patients were negative for antibodies to hepatitis C, whereas 24% had hepatitis B infection and 10% had adverse drug reactions. Livers from 75% of patients showed confluent hepatic necrosis. However, there was considerable variability in the extent of necrosis, and biopsy specimens from about 50% of the most severely affected livers showed only minimal bridging necrosis. In patients with massive hepatic necrosis, percutaneous liver biopsy specimens were frequently misleading because of regional inhomogeneities. Interestingly, five patients (13%) had established cirrhosis at the time of diagnosis. The best clinical predictors of survival were age and the maximal grade of encephalopathy. By contrast, neither the severeity of confluent hepatic necrosis nor the etiology predicted the decision to transplant or the outcome. There were no differences in the histopathology corresponding to different etiologies. In summary, the approach to the patient with fulminant hepatic failure should be guided principally on clinical grounds, and further classification should be based on pathological and etiologic considerations. However, histological classification and prognosis based on percutaneous biopsy specimens alone may be misleading. (HEPATOLOGY 1995;21:345–351.)