Iron can accumulate in the liver in a variety of conditions, including congenital, systemic iron-loading conditions (hereditary hemochromatosis), conditions associated with systemic macrophage iron accumulation (transfusions, hemolytic conditions, anemia of chronic disease, etc), in some hepatitidies (hepatitis C, alcoholic liver disease, porphyria cutanea tarda), and liver-specific iron accumulation of uncertain pathogenesis in cirrhosis. The anatomic pathologist will be faced with the task of determining whether iron accumulation in the liver is significant and, if so, the nature of the disease that lead to the accumulation (ie diagnosis). The tools available to the pathologist include (most importantly) histologic examination with iron stain, quantitative iron analysis, clinical history, laboratory iron tests (serum iron and iron-binding capacity, serum ferritin) and germline genetic analysis for mutations in genes known to be associated with hemochromatosis (HFE, ferroportin, hepcidin, hemojuvelin, transferrin receptor-2). This article provides an overview of the above.
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