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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1990 Mar-Apr;5(2):211-4.

Hepatic veno-occlusive disease associated with comfrey ingestion.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Auckland Hospital, New Zealand.


A 23 year old man presented with hepatic veno-occlusive disease and severe portal hypertension and subsequently died from liver failure. Light microscopy and hepatic angiography showed occlusion of sublobular veins and small venous radicles of the liver, associated with widespread haemorrhagic necrosis of hepatocytes. The patient had been on a predominantly vegetarian diet and, prior to his illness, took comfrey leaves which are known to contain hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Comfrey is widely used as a herbal remedy, but so far has only been implicated in two other documented cases of human hepatic veno-occlusive disease. A possible causal association of comfrey and this patient's veno-occlusive disease is suggested by the temporal relationship of the ingestion of comfrey to his presentation, the histological changes in the liver and the exclusion of other known causes of the disease.

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