Glycogenic hepatopathy: an underrecognized hepatic complication of diabetes mellitus

Am J Surg Pathol. 2006 Apr;30(4):508-13. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200604000-00012.


Reported are the clinical and pathologic features of glycogenic hepatopathy, a pathologic overloading of hepatocytes with glycogen that is associated with poorly controlled diabetes mellitus. Fourteen cases were studied by stains, including hematoxylin and eosin, trichrome, periodic acid-Schiff, and periodic acid-Schiff with diastase. Ultrastructural analysis was performed in 2 cases. Medical records were reviewed for clinical presentations, laboratory findings, and clinical outcomes. The individuals ranged from 8 to 25 years of age. All had type I diabetes mellitus with poor glycemic control. The clinical presentations included hepatomegaly, abdominal pain, and elevated transaminases (range, 50-1600 IU/L). The transaminases were dramatically elevated in 3 cases to greater than 10 times the upper limit of normal. All biopsies showed diffusely pale staining hepatocytes on hematoxylin and eosin stains, with excessive glycogen accumulation demonstrated by periodic acid-Schiff stains. Ultrastructural examination revealed marked glycogen accumulation in the cytoplasm and nuclei. Most cases showed no evidence for fatty liver disease: steatosis was absent in 12 of 14 cases, simple steatosis was seen in 1 of 14 cases, and mild steatohepatitis was present in 1 of 14 cases. Mallory hyaline was absent in all cases, acidophil bodies were only rarely seen, and inflammation was absent or minimally present. Fibrosis was typically absent, with only 2 cases demonstrating focal mild fibrosis. Three patients had adequate follow-up and demonstrated improvement of liver enzyme levels with control of blood glucose. We conclude that glycogenic hepatopathy can cause hepatomegaly and significant transaminase elevations in individuals with type I diabetes mellitus. The pathology is distinct from steatohepatitis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology*
  • Female
  • Glycogen Storage Disease / diagnosis
  • Glycogen Storage Disease / metabolism
  • Hepatomegaly / etiology
  • Hepatomegaly / metabolism
  • Hepatomegaly / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Liver Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Male


  • Liver Glycogen