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Am J Clin Pathol. 2003 Feb;119(2):254-8.

Stellate-cell lipidosis in liver biopsy specimens. Recognition and significance.

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  • 1Dept of Pathology, NYU Medical Center, TH-461, 560, First Ave, New York, NY 10016-6497, USA.


Hepatic stellate-cell lipidosis due to hypervitaminosis A can lead to cirrhosis, which can be averted by restricting vitamin A intake. Other causes, including the use of synthetic retinoids, have been postulated. We studied the frequency and etiology of stellate-cell lipidosis in patients undergoing liver biopsy for reasons other than vitamin A abuse. Fourteen cases (1.1%) were identified retrospectively among 1,235 nontransplant liver biopsy specimens examined from January 1995 through December 1999. Diagnostic criteria included the following: lipid-laden cells in the space of Disse; small, dark, crescent-shaped nuclei with inconspicuous nucleoli; and wispy cytoplasmic strands separating fat droplets. Patient details, reason for biopsy, and medication use were studied. Reasons for biopsy included hepatitis C (10 cases), abnormal liver enzyme levels (2 cases), methotrexate use (1 case), and alcohol abuse (1 case). Hypervitaminosis A was not suspected clinically in the 5 patients who used oral vitamin A or 3 who used topical tretinoin (Retin-A). In 6 patients, no cause of stellate-cell lipidosis was discerned. Stellate-cell lipidosis should be reported to alert clinicians to a potentially preventable form of liver injury.

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