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Diagnosis and treatment of hepatic sarcoidosis.

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  • 1Mount Sinai Medical Center, One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1232, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA.


The presence of granulomas in the liver raises consideration of a wide differential diagnosis, but in most Western series, sarcoidosis accounts for a majority of cases. This review will focus specifically on the diagnosis of and therapy for hepatic sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is a systemic granulomatous disease of unknown etiology. Hepatic involvement of sarcoidosis was described in 11.5% of 736 patients enrolled in the ACCESS study. However, presence alone of granulomas in an organ in sarcoidosis does not dictate treatment. The decision to treat should be based on symptoms and severity of disease. Although hepatic involvement usually is asymptomatic, a minority of patients progress to chronic cholestatic disease, portal hypertension, and cirrhosis that may require liver transplantation. Treatment of hepatic sarcoidosis should be reserved for patients who manifest this spectrum of disease. Glucocorticoid treatment is first-line therapy for hepatic sarcoidosis, improving symptoms and abnormal laboratory values but generally having no effect on progression of disease. In addition to glucocorticoids, immunomodulators such as azathioprine, methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, and infliximab have been used with some positive effects on symptoms, liver enzyme abnormalities, and hepatomegaly, but none has been shown to prevent progression of disease. Ultimately, in cases of overt liver failure, liver transplantation is the definitive treatment. Overall, treatment for hepatic sarcoidosis is targeted toward alleviation of symptoms but has no curative potential at this time. Focus should be on discovering the etiology of the disease to target therapy at prevention, not cure.

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