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Indian J Gastroenterol. 1999 Oct-Nov;18(4):152-5.

Hepatic manifestations in chronic arsenic toxicity.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research, Calcutta.



The hepatotoxic action of arsenic, when used as a therapeutic agent, has long been recognized. Data on liver involvement following chronic exposure to arsenic-contaminated water are scanty. We report the nature and degree of liver involvement on the basis of hospital-based and cohort follow-up studies in patients who consumed arsenic-contaminated drinking water for 1 to 15 years.


248 patients with evidence of chronic arsenic toxicity underwent clinical and laboratory examinations including liver function tests and HBsAg status. Liver biopsy was done in 69 cases; in 29 patients, liver arsenic content was estimated by neutron activation analysis. A cohort follow up of 23 patients who took arsenic-free water for 2-12 years was also carried out.


Hepatomegaly was present in 190 of 248 patients (76.6%). Noncirrhotic portal fibrosis (91.3%) was the predominant lesion in liver histology. The maximum arsenic content in liver was 6 mg/Kg (mean 1.46 [0.42], control value 0.16 [0.04]; p < 0.001); it was undetected in 6 of 29 samples studied. Cohort follow-up studies showed elevation of globulin in four cases and development of esophageal varices in one case.


We report the largest number of patients with liver disease due to chronic arsenicosis from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. Noncirrhotic portal fibrosis is the predominant lesion in this population.

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