Liver-test abnormalities in sarcoidosis

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Jan;24(1):17-24. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e32834c7b71.


Background: Sarcoidosis is a multisystemic inflammatory granulomatous disease. The prevalence of hepatic involvement is not clear.

Aim: The aim of this study was to establish the presence and severity of the liver-test abnormalities in sarcoidosis.

Methods: Retrospectively, patients with confirmed sarcoidosis (n=837) presented with the liver-test abnormalities [alkaline phosphatase, γ-glutamyl transaminase, alanine aminotransferase or aspartate aminotransferase >1.5 times the upper limit of normal (ULN)] who were classified according to severity into mild (zero liver tests ≥3×ULN), moderate (one or two liver tests ≥3×ULN) and severe (three or four liver tests ≥3×ULN) were evaluated. Moreover, the relationship between severity of liver tests and histology was examined.

Results: Liver-test abnormalities were found in 204 of 837 patients with chronic sarcoidosis (24.4%), among which 127 (15.2%) were suspected of having hepatic sarcoidosis (79 of 127 males, 111 Caucasian, eight African-American). In 22 of 127 patients (17.3%), a liver biopsy was obtained; 21 were compatible with hepatic sarcoidosis. In these 21 patients, severity of liver-test abnormalities was significantly associated with extensiveness of granulomatous inflammation (ρ=0.58, P=0.006) and degree of fibrosis (ρ=0.64, P=0.002). These results remained in the multiple regression analysis when controlled for treatment status, sex, genetics, ethnicity and age.

Conclusion: Liver-test abnormalities were present in 24% of the studied patients; in 15% highly because of hepatic involvement of sarcoidosis. Moderate and severe liver-test abnormalities seemed to be associated with more advanced histopathological disease. Therefore, in the management of sarcoidosis, for patients with moderate or severe liver-test abnormalities a liver biopsy is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Liver Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Liver Function Tests* / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sarcoidosis / diagnosis*
  • Sarcoidosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Sarcoidosis / pathology
  • Ultrasonography