Morphological and immunohistological appearances of liver biopsy specimens are described in a personal series of 52 patients undergoing operation for chronic pancreatitis. The findings are compared with those in a series of 10 histologically normal liver biopsy specimens from patients without pancreatitis. Alcohol was the prime aetiological agent in 40 of the 52 patients (77%). No obvious damage to hepatic parenchymal cells or biliary structures was observed but minor morphological changes of alcohol associated liver disease were seen in 42% of specimens. The most consistent finding, present in 48 specimens (92%), was a chronic inflammatory cell infiltration of portal tracts. In all but one case, T lymphocytes predominated, but a few B cells were present. In four biopsy specimens, T cells spilled over into adjacent hepatic parenchyma, but there was no evidence of T cell mediated cytotoxic damage to the parenchymal cells or biliary epithelium. It is suggested that these inflammatory cells are in transit from the pancreas through the liver via the portal circulation and may reflect the underlying pathogenesis of chronic pancreatitis rather than alcoholic liver disease.
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