Which histologic findings indicate fatty liver disease?

Updated: Apr 12, 2018
  • Author: Emily Tommolino, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
  • Print


Histologically, fatty liver is characterized by fat accumulation, which is most prominent in the pericentral (centrilobular) zone. Macrovesicular steatosis is the rule; hepatocytes containing one or more large fat droplets displace the nucleus to an eccentric position. Occasional lipid release from rupture of distended hepatocytes may produce a mild localized inflammatory response (lipogranulomas) composed predominantly of macrophages and occasional lymphocytes.

Although infiltration of liver with inflammatory cells typically is not prominent in patients with steatosis alone, in some instances, fibrosis around terminal venules (ie, perivenular fibrosis) or hepatocytes (ie, pericellular fibrosis) has been noted. Early changes observed with the electron microscope include accumulation of membrane-bound fat droplets, proliferation of smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and gradual distortion of mitochondria. Microvesicular steatosis also is being recognized with increasing frequency.

Alcoholic foamy degeneration (microvesicular fatty change) was the term used by Uchida et al to describe a clinical syndrome in people with chronic alcoholism. [37] The syndrome is characterized by jaundice and hyperlipidemia and is associated with striking microvesicular steatosis and abundant giant mitochondria observed on liver biopsy.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!