Pediatric and Developmental Pathology

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 214–225

Liver Involvement in the Histiocytic Disorders of Childhood

Perspectives in Pediatric Pathology

DOI: 10.1007/s10024-003-9876-z

Cite this article as:
Jaffe, R. Pediatr. Dev. Pathol. (2004) 7: 214. doi:10.1007/s10024-003-9876-z


The liver can be involved directly, by infiltration, and indirectly—by remote effects—in the histiocytoses of childhood. Langerhans cell disease, the most well recognized of these, infiltrates the liver directly but has a remarkable selectivity for the bile ducts. Early involvement is by Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) infiltration leading to a sclerosing cholangitis and, eventually, biliary cirrhosis. Gamma glutamyl transpeptidase is a sensitive indicator of liver infiltration in a child with LCH. The indirect effects on the liver of LCH elsewhere in the body are mediated through an accompanying macrophage activation syndrome that is most likely responsible for hepatomegaly and hypoalbuminemia but without direct infiltration. These indirect effects are completely reversible. Juvenile xanthogranuloma/xanthoma disseminatum, a related dendritic cell disorder that can have systemic manifestations, has a strikingly different pattern, with a predominantly portal infiltrate spilling over into the adjacent lobule but sparing the biliary tree. The biology of the liver lesions is not clear but regression has been documented. Myeloproliferative disorders and myeloid leukemias can express CD1a and/or S100 protein, mimicking LCH but distinguished by their sinusoidal pattern. The primary macrophage histiocytoses such as the familial hemophagocytic syndromes can lead to severe liver damage. Although a portal lymphohistiocytic infiltrate is most characteristic, it is probably cytokine-mediated hepatocellular damage that can cause substantial functional impairment or even hepatic failure as a presenting feature. Liver involvement in other, more unusual histiocytic disorders, is also illustrated.

histiocytosis Kupffer cells Langerhans cell histiocytosis liver macrophage activation xanthogranuloma 

Copyright information

© Society for Pediatric Pathology 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pathology, Children’s Hospital of PittsburghUniversity of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 3705 Fifth AvenuePittsburghUSA