A reappraisal of hepatic siderosis in patients with end-stage cirrhosis: practical implications for the diagnosis of hemochromatosis

Am J Surg Pathol. 1997 Jun;21(6):669-75. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199706000-00007.


The aim of this study was to describe the histologic pattern of iron distribution in end-stage cirrhosis due to various causes and to test the reliability of the hepatic iron index (equal to hepatic iron concentration divided by age) in excluding or confirming associated hemochromatosis in such a condition. Large slices of the resected livers of 30 patients transplanted for alcoholic and/or viral end-stage cirrhosis were assessed histologically for iron distribution and biochemically for hepatic iron concentration in the least and the most iron-overloaded nodules of each case. HLA-A3 was used as the marker for the hemochromatosis gene in the population studied. Intranodular parenchymal siderosis was found in 23 cases (12 spotty, 11 diffuse) with diffuse intrabiliary iron deposits apparent in only two cases. Although in 14 patients the hepatic iron index was significantly high (> 1.9) so as to suggest hemochromatosis, these cases did not correspond to homozygous hemochromatosis with respect to the prevalence of HLA-A3 antigen. End-stage cirrhosis arising from different causes is frequently complicated by parenchymal siderosis that may mimic hemochromatosis, including a hepatic iron index greater than 1.9. The diagnosis of hemochromatosis in patients with end-stage cirrhosis, even those with a hepatic iron index greater than 1.9, should rely mainly on clinical and histologic data.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • HLA-A3 Antigen / analysis
  • Hemochromatosis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / analysis
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Siderosis / pathology*


  • Biomarkers
  • HLA-A3 Antigen
  • Iron