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Indian J Med Res. 2013 Jun;137(6):1029-42.

Indian childhood cirrhosis (ICC) & ICC-like diseases: the changing scenario of facts versus notions.

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Department of Pathology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India.


Indian childhood cirrhosis (ICC), a disease considered to have been endemic in and unique to India has now been documented in children of non-Indian origin from other countries. More recently available findings from a large multicentre study sponsored by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have dispelled some of the generally accepted notions and have established several new facts on different aspects of the disease. All relevant reports on ICC and ICC-like diseases, till date, were reviewed to obtain a proper perspective on the current state of our understanding on this non-Wilsonian copper overload liver disease. A primary role of exogenous copper in causing the disease was earlier debated on the basis of studies in India but investigators abroad studying some sporadic cases and a series of endemic ICC-like diseases supported a hepatotoxic injury by ingested copper in genetically susceptible infants and children in ICC- like disease and in ICC. Epidemiologic and morphologic findings in the well controlled ICMR study based on 225 cases of ICC and 426 controls, all confirmed on liver biopsy, have however, convincingly refuted this concept. Additionally, this study revealed that unlike what has been believed earlier, older children more than 3 yr age can get the disease and that in its natural course the hepatic histology can transform between the characteristic one considered diagnostic and some other patterns, any one of which can be the morphologic manifestation at first presentation of the patient. Older children and cases with milder morphologic changes at presentation had longer survival. The overall inference from critical analysis of all available data is that ICC and ICC-like diseases clinically manifest in a child of any age though common in younger ones, and a clinical diagnosis must be made in any child with so-called 'cryptogenic cirrhosis'. Exposure to exogenous copper in food, milk and water should not be a prerequisite for this consideration. A liver biopsy whenever feasible should be mandatory for confirmation with the understanding that the morphologic changes in liver can present a few other patterns besides the characteristic one currently taken to be diagnostic. The ascribed current decline in encountering ICC is likely to be due partly to missing a diagnosis and partly to a true reduction in incidence consequent on time related economic and socio-cultural changes.

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