Wilson disease (hepatobiliary manifestations)

Hepatobiliary manifestations of Wilson disease vary largely from fatty changes to cirrhosis and occasionally fulminant hepatic necrosis. They result from accumulation of copper in the liver.

For a general discussion of the underlying condition, please refer to the article Wilson disease

Hepatic dysfunction is considered the most common manifestation of Wilson's disease in childhood, usually presenting at age 10-13 years 5.

General

The form of liver disease varies, depending on the severity of the disease at the time of diagnosis and pathological findings include fatty changes, acute hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis, cirrhosis and occasionally fulminant hepatic necrosis

The liver can later develop cirrhosis and has several unique radiological findings in comparison to other types of cirrhosis.

Specific features include 1:

  • multiple nodular lesions in the liver
  • presence of perihepatic fat layer and normal caudate lobe which is contrary to other types cirrhosis. 
CT

Hepatic attenuation can be increased 7 or normal where the latter is thought to result from fatty infiltration and copper deposition cancelling effects of each other.  Evidence of cirrhosis may be seen in later stages.   

Liver MRI

Copper has no ferromagnetic effect on MR imaging because the copper in hepatocytes may combine with proteins.

MR imaging demonstrates the contour abnormalities and parenchymal nodules of the liver in more than half of the patients with Wilson's disease, which is thought to correlate with the severity of hepatic dysfunction and clinical manifestations.

  • commonest finding is cirrhotic change6
  • iron in regenerative nodules may result in numerous small nodular T2 hypointensities scattered throughout the liver which can be similar to those of deposits seen in patients with cirrhosis resulting from viral infection

Medical treatment with usually with copper chelators (D-penicillamine, trientine) or zinc and this can achieve symptomatic improvement and normal life expectancy. Orthotopic liver transplantation is indicated in advanced cases with hepatic decompensation or in patients with fulminant Wilson's disease 4.

Share article

Article Information

rID: 17288
Tag: cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Hepatobiliary manifestations of Wilson's disease
  • Liver involvement in Wilson's disease
  • Liver involvement in Wilson disease

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Cases and Figures

  • Drag
    3
    Case 1
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.
    Loadinganimation

    Alert accept

    Error Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

    Alert accept Thank you for updating your details.