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Pathol Int. 2021 Nov 24; doi: 10.1111/pin.13186. Epub 2021 Nov 24.

Liver pathology in pregnancy.

Pathology international

Jacqueline E Birkness-Gartman, Kiyoko Oshima


  1. Department of Pathology, Division of Gastrointestinal/Liver Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.

PMID: 34818440 DOI: 10.1111/pin.13186


Liver dysfunction occurs in up to 3% of pregnancies and can be due to pregnancy-associated liver injury, exacerbation of pre-existing liver disease, or co-incident with pregnancy. The most common form of pregnancy-associated liver injury is intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). This condition is typically benign and self-limited, but is associated with fetal morbidity and mortality with high levels of serum bile acids. Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) and the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (including pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, and hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets [HELLP] syndrome) are more commonly associated with maternal and fetal complications and may necessitate expedient delivery. Histologically, ICP shows nonspecific features of cholestasis, while AFLP and the hypertensive disorders have more characteristic histologic findings. While not a true liver disease, hyperemesis gravidarum can cause elevated liver enzymes. Pregnant patients are at increased risk of developing severe hepatitis E and herpesvirus infections, Budd-Chiari syndrome, and gallstones, and they may also experience worsening of known chronic liver disease. Mass lesions in pregnancy including hemangiomas, focal nodular hyperplasia, and hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas can present unique challenges for diagnosis and management. This review will explore the pathophysiology, presentation, histologic features, and management of these conditions.

© 2021 Japanese Society of Pathology and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

Keywords: acute fatty liver; cholestasis; eclampsia; liver disease; pregnancy


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