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Histopathologic Evaluation of Liver Biopsy for Cirrhosis

Ma, Changqing MD, PhD; Brunt, Elizabeth M. MD

Advances in Anatomic Pathology: July 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 220–230
doi: 10.1097/PAP.0b013e31825c6bab
Review Articles

In current medical practice, the clinical diagnosis of cirrhosis is rendered when a patient has suggestive imaging findings or features of portal hypertension (pHTN). Liver biopsy may be considered to assess potential underlying cause(s). Cirrhosis, however, is not the only etiology of pHTN; in fact, schistosomiasis remains a significant factor worldwide. pHTN results from obstruction of hepatic blood flow; it is classified clinically based on either the anatomic location of obstruction or hepatic venous pressure gradient measurements. The clinical categories carry clinicopathologic significances. Histopathologically, pHTN is manifest with either cirrhotic or noncirrhotic features. Noncirrhotic pHTN results from a heterogeneous group of disease processes, all of which result in vascular remodeling with variable parenchymal nodularity and fibrosis. This review summarizes liver biopsy findings of cirrhosis and possible etiologies and provides a stepwise approach for the histologic differential diagnosis of a liver biopsy done for “cirrhosis.”

Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Reprints: Elizabeth M. Brunt, MD, Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, Box 8118, St. Louis, MO 63110. (e-mail:

Copyright © 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.