Histology and Glutamine Synthetase Immunoreactivity in Liver Biopsies From Patients With Congestive Heart Failure

Bela Horvath, Lei Zhu, Daniela Allende, Hao Xie, John Guirguis, Michael Cruise, Deepa T. Patil, Robert O’Shea, John Rivas, Reyna Yordanka, Nan Lan, Xiuli Liu


Background: Long-standing congestive heart failure can induce a constellation of histopathology changes in the liver that can range from mild sinusoidal dilation to advanced fibrosis and loss of normal perivenular expression of glutamine synthetase (GS). Liver biopsies might be performed to assess the perioperative risk of these patients or to determine the need of synchronous liver transplant. We aimed to assess interobserver agreement in recognizing these liver histologic features in patients undergoing evaluation for heart transplantation and to examine whether immunohistochemistry of GS will aid the diagnosis of cardiac hepatopathy (CH).

Methods: Hematoxylin-eosin and trichrome-stained slides from 36 liver biopsies from patients undergoing evaluation for heart transplantation were reviewed by four liver pathologists. Histologic features of CH were reviewed and an overall fibrosis (stage) was assessed according to a recently proposed congestive hepatic fibrosis score (CHFS). In addition, 24 liver biopsies with a consensus diagnosis of CH and eight liver biopsies with no significant pathological changes were subjected to immunohistochemistry for GS. The Fleiss kappa coefficient (K) analysis was performed to determine the interobserver agreement. Further, histologic features of CH were correlated with the staining pattern of GS.

Results: Sinusoidal dilation, centrilobular hepatocyte atrophy, centrilobular fibrosis and hemorrhage were the most common findings in this cohort with a substantial-to-fair level of interobserver agreement among four reviewers. The overall agreement on the diagnosis of CH and CHFS was moderate (K = 0.55, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.32 - 0.73) and fair (K = 0.35, 95% CI: 0.24 - 0.49), respectively. Twelve (of 24, 50%) cases of CH showed loss of the normal perivenular GS staining, while the remaining 12 cases of CH and all eight controls showed retained GS expression. Histologic features of CH (presence of sinusoidal dilation, centrilobular hepatocyte atrophy, hemorrhage, and centrilobular fibrosis) and the stage of fibrosis (CHFS) were not correlated with the loss of GS staining.

Conclusion: Most common features of CH can be interpreted with fair-to-substantial level of agreement by liver pathologists, with an overall moderate level agreement for the diagnosis and fair agreement for CHFS. Loss of normal perivenular expression of GS only occurs in 50% CH and thus is not a sensitive marker for CH.

Gastroenterol Res. 2017;10(3):182-189
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/gr875e


Cardiac hepatopathy; Glutamine synthetase; Liver biopsy; Congestive heart failure

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