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J Hepatol. 1994 Sep;21(3):417-23.

Change in size, shape and radiocolloid uptake of the alcoholic liver during alcohol withdrawal, as demonstrated by single photon emission computed tomography.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Alcohol and Drug Research, Internal Medicine, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


The volume of the total liver and separate right and left lobes was studied before and after 1 week of alcohol withdrawal in 16 consecutive alcoholics by means of single photon emission computed tomography after intravenous injection of 99Tcm-human albumin colloid; the relative tissue distribution of radioactivity was also followed. The left liver lobe increased in volume more than the right lobe during drinking and decreased more rapidly after alcohol withdrawal. Median volume reductions during 1 week of alcohol withdrawal were: total liver 12%, left lobe 26%, and right lobe 8%, indicating that half of the reduction to values of a control group was achieved during this first week. The volume of the right but not of the left lobe was significantly correlated to body size in alcoholics and in controls. The left lobe had a lower capacity to concentrate the radiocolloid than the right lobe in alcoholics and in controls. The liver/spleen, liver/bone marrow and liver/background radioactivity concentration ratios in the alcoholics increased during alcohol withdrawal. We conclude that heavy drinking causes both an increased total liver volume and a change in liver shape, with a relatively more enlarged left than right lobe, as well as a decreased capacity to concentrate radiocolloid. These changes are rapidly reversible during abstinence from alcohol.

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