Gastrointestinal and hepatic manifestations of sarcoidosis

Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Dec;103(12):3184-92; quiz 3193. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2008.02202.x. Epub 2008 Oct 1.


Sarcoidosis is a multisystem disease characterized by noncaseating granulomas in the affected organs, including skin, heart, nervous system, and joints. Diagnosis of sarcoidosis is generally based upon a compatible history, demonstration of granulomas in at least two different organs, negative staining and culture for acid fast bacilli, absence of occupational or domestic exposure to toxins, and lack of drug-induced disease. Involvement of the hollow organs is rare. Rather than being due to sarcoidosis, some reported mucosal lesions may simply have incidental granulomas. Extrinsic compression from lymphadenopathy can occur throughout the gastrointestinal tract. The stomach, particularly the antrum, is the most common extrahepatic organ to be involved, while the small bowel is the least common. Liver involvement frequently occurs and ranges from asymptomatic incidental granulomas to portal hypertension from granulomas in the portal triad, usually with relatively preserved liver function. CT scans show hepatosplenomegaly and adenopathy, followed in frequency by focal low-attenuation lesions of the liver and spleen. Ascites is usually a transudate from right heart failure (because of pulmonary hypertension) or portal hypertension (because of biliary cirrhosis). Rarely, an exudative ascites may occur from studding of the peritoneum with nodules. Pancreatic involvement presents as a mass, usually in the head or a diffusely firm, nodular organ. Corticosteroids should be instituted when organ function is threatened, usually lungs, eyes, and central nervous system. Their role in the treatment of hepatic sarcoidosis is unclear. The overall prognosis is good although most patients will have some permanent organ impairment. Cardiac and pulmonary diseases are the main causes of death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascites / etiology
  • Digestive System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Digestive System Diseases / etiology
  • Digestive System Diseases / therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Liver Diseases / therapy
  • Pancreatic Diseases / etiology
  • Prognosis
  • Sarcoidosis / complications*
  • Sarcoidosis / drug therapy
  • Sarcoidosis / therapy
  • Splenic Diseases / etiology