Collagenisation of the space of Disse was systematically assessed to determine its relationship to the clinical and histological manifestations of chronic alcoholic liver disease. Ninety-four chronic alcoholics who had been submitted to biopsy were assessed by clinical manifestations of hepatic dysfunction and by a 17-parameter Combined Clinical and Laboratory Index (CCLI). Liver biopsies were scored for light (LM) and electron-microscopy (EM) abnormalities using a universal scoring system for both. Thirty-five patients with normal liver histology (LM) had an average collagen score of 0.6 +/- 0.1. Twelve cirrhotic patients and 29 with fatty liver, both groups with mild clinical manifestations, did not differ significantly. In 18 cirrhotic patients and five with fatty liver, both groups having severe clinical manifestations, the mean scores were 2.1 +/- 0.8 (P less than 0.02) and 2.5 +/- 0.6 (P less than 0.01) respectively. Collagenisation also correlated with CCLI (P less than 0.001), serum bilirubin (P less than 0.001), serum aspartate transferase (SGOT) (P less than 0.003), and clinical evidence of portal hypertension and histological changes of necrosis, inflammation, and terminal hepatic vein sclerosis. These results suggest that collagenisation of the Disse space may be important in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease.
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