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Am J Gastroenterol. 1988 May;83(5):572-5.

Generalized peliosis hepatis and cirrhosis after long-term use of oral contraceptives.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Peliosis hepatis, a condition characterized by the presence of blood-filled lacunar spaces in the liver, has been described primarily in patients on androgenic steroid medication and patients with tuberculosis. It has never been reported as a complication of the use of oral contraceptives, except in association with and localized in contraceptive-induced hepatic tumors. The present report concerns a 43-yr-old woman with generalized peliosis hepatis that developed during long-term use of oral contraceptives. Extensive examination did not reveal a hepatic tumor. Liver cirrhosis and portal hypertension developed, although the oral contraceptives had been withdrawn. She finally underwent successfully an orthotopic liver transplantation.


A case report is presented of a 43-year-old woman with generalized peliosis hepatitis that developed during longterm use of oral contraceptives (OCs). The patient had been in good health until the last 2 years when she began to experience vague epigastric pains and a feeling of abdominal distension. Several months prior to admission, she had started to complain of itching and fatigue. There was no history of dark urine, white stools, or hepatitis. On physical examination, no jaundice or cutaneous stigmata of chronic liver disease were observed. Laboratory studies showed a normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate and hematological blood count. A radionuclide study of the liver showed hepatomegaly; especially the left lobe was enlarged. A computerized tomographic scan of the liver showed multiple areas of decreased density in both of the enlarged lobes. There was no evidence of a tumor. Selective transfemoral angiography of the celiac artery also showed hepatic enlargement but no signs of a space-occupying lesion. At laparoscopy, the liver was grossly enlarged and had a lumpy appearance, but again there were no signs of a tumor. No evidence of veno-occlusive disease or hepatocellular adenoma was found. The diagnosis was peliosis hepatitis. The OCs were withdrawn, and the patient was discharged. Regular follow-up in the outpatient department showed no decrease in the size of the liver. The alkaline phosphatase level rose. The fatigue became worse, and cholestyramine was prescribed for progressive itching. In September 1980, the patient was admitted for reevaluation. A repeated CT scan and angiography of the liver again yielded no evidence of a tumor. Esophagoscopy showed the presence of varices grade 2. The liver at laparoscopy had the same appearance as it had in 1976. Histological examination of a biopsy specimen showed occasional dilated sinusoids and locally marked periportal and intralobular fibrosis. No regeneration nodules were found. The diagnosis was liver fibrosis. The patient's condition deteriorated gradually in the following years. She experienced increasing fatigue. Steatorrhea developed, and the patient lost weight. She needed increasing doses of cholestyramine and oral supplementation of vitamins A, D, and K. She was admitted for a 3rd time in February 1985. Esophagoscopy revealed varices grade 4. A CT scan of the liver showed no change. The patient successfully underwent an orthotopic liver transplantation in January 1987. The diagnosis of peliosis hepatis was well documented in this patient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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