DIGESTIVE DISEASES AND SCIENCES, vol.50, no.5, pp.964-969, 2005 (SCI-Expanded)
Our objective was to determine the effect of serum iron levels and hepatic iron overload on hepatocellular damage in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and to compare this with chronic viral hepatitis. Twenty-five patients who had elevated transaminase levels on at least two occasions, without any evidence of viral and autoimmune hepatitis and diabetes, without a history of significant alcohol use, and with a liver biopsy consistent with NASH were enrolled in the study. Twenty-five patients with chronic viral hepatitis (13 patients with chronic hepatitis C and 12 with chronic hepatitis B) who were not under any antiviral treatment were taken as controls. Metabolic factors were studied in the NASH and chronic hepatitis groups. Biopsy specimens were stained with hematoxylin-eosin, and the grade of steatosis and the stage of fibrosis were evaluated as I, II, or III, I being mild and III being severe. Iron overload in the hepatic tissue was studied by Prussian blue staining. Serum ALT, AST, ALP, GGT, globulin, and ferritin levels were comparable in both steatohepatitis and chronic viral hepatitis groups. However, patients with chronic hepatitis had a lower albumin level and a higher serum iron level, with higher transferrin saturation. Among patients with NASH, mild, moderate, and severe steatosis was found in 7, 10, and 8 patients, respectively. Inflammatory infiltration was grade I in 24 patients and grade III in 1 patient. Fibrosis was mild in 12 patients and 13 patients had no fibrosis. Among patients with chronic viral hepatitis, inflammatory infiltration of grade I was seen in 11 patients, grade II in 11 patients, and grade III in 3 patients. Fibrosis was mild in 9 patients, moderate in 13 patients, and severe in 2 patients; 1 patient had no fibrosis. Compared to patients with NASH, those with chronic viral hepatitis cases had more severe inflammatory infiltration and fibrosis (P < 0.01). While five patients with chronic viral hepatitis had mild iron overload, patients with NASH had no hepatic paranchymal iron overload. Neither NASH nor chronic viral hepatitis revealed a relationship between hepatic iron overload and disease activity. This suggests that the iron overload actually may be a result of hemachromatosis gene mutation. The absence of hepatic parenchymal iron overload in the NASH group and only mild iron accumulation in the chronic hepatitis group may be explained by a lower frequency of the gene mutation in our country.