Four cases of type 1 diabetes mellitus showing sharp serum transaminase increases and hepatomegaly due to glycogenic hepatopathy

Hepatol Res. 2017 Mar;47(3):E201-E209. doi: 10.1111/hepr.12713. Epub 2016 Apr 24.


Poorly controlled diabetes mellitus (DM) patients sometimes show serum transaminase elevations due to steatohepatitis. However, we experienced four cases with type 1 DM with sharp elevations in serum transaminases that could not be explained by steatohepatitis alone and showed bright liver. They were diagnosed with glycogenic hepatopathy (GH) clinicopathologically. The four patients had a median age of 22.5 years (range, 19-29 years) and 12.5 (4-15)-year histories of type 1 DM and showed marked increases in serum transaminases (aspartate aminotransferase, 698 U/L [469-2763 U/L]; alanine transaminase, 255 U/L [216-956 U/L]). Diabetes mellitus control was poor and hemoglobin A1c was 12.7% (11-16.5%). Three cases had a past history of diabetic ketoacidosis. Hepatomegaly and hyperdense liver were seen on computed tomography scans. Magnetic resonance imaging showed low intensity in T2-weighted images. The pathological findings revealed pale and swollen hepatocytes and glycogenated nuclei. The architecture of the liver was preserved, and steatosis and fibrosis were mild. The cytoplasm of hepatocytes stained densely positive with periodic acid-Schiff, and the positive staining disappeared after diastase digestion, suggesting glycogen deposition. No other cause of hepatitis was evident, and the diagnosis was GH. Elevated transaminases improved within 1 month with good glycemic control. Transaminase elevations were observed several times in three cases with poor glycemic control. Glycogenic hepatopathy is rare, but extremely high serum elevations of transaminases are important to identify clinically. Despite showing a good clinical course in general, GH sometimes recurs and requires strict glycemic control. Clinicians should be aware of and recognize GH when dealing with uncontrolled DM patients.

Keywords: accumulation of glycogen; bright liver; glycogenic hepatopathy (GH); hepatomegaly; type 1 diabetes mellitus.