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Histopathology. 2003 Mar;42(3):265-9.

The pathology of acute hepatic disintegration in hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia.

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Department of Pathology, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Lancaster, UK.



Hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia is a rare inherited disease in which telangiectases affect skin, mucous membranes and the gastrointestinal tract. Hepatic involvement is common but usually asymptomatic. We report a case of acute hepatic disintegration in hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia, document the histopathological findings and present a hypothesis to explain them.


The patient presented at the age of 34 years with abdominal pain, leading to the surgical removal of a severely inflamed gallbladder. Signs of liver damage became increasingly apparent over the next few weeks, with disruption of the intrahepatic biliary tree and marked vascular shunting, necessitating liver transplantation. Six months after the transplant a diagnosis of hepatic hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia was made. The principal features of hepatic hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia are periportal telangiectases and sinusoidal congestion and dilatation. Acute hepatic disintegration is characterized by disruption of liver structure, hepatocyte necrosis, haemorrhage and extravasation of bile.


Periportal telangiectases in a liver biopsy are highly suggestive of hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia. Acute hepatic disintegration is likely to be a consequence of rupture of telangiectases and ischaemic necrosis of intrahepatic bile ducts. Patients with hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia are at risk of acute hepatic disintegration following intra-abdominal sepsis.

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