The more you know the more you see

And the more you see, the more you know.  Case in point: gestational alloimmune liver disease (GALD), also referred to as congenital alloimmune hepatitis (CAH) which itself is often referred to as neonatal hemochromatosis (NH).  Now, GALD is more readily identifiable and has better treatments to prevent progression to liver-related complications.  A recent study (J Pediatr 2011; 159: 612-16) shows that GALD can result in fetal death; this finding is a relatively logical extension from the work in this area over the last decade but would not have been feasible without the prior recognition that most cases of neonatal hemochromatosis stem from GALD.

GALD is mediated by fetal complement via activation of the terminal complement cascade.  The presence of C5b-9 complex, an antigen that is part of this cascade, is unique to cases of NH and allows diagnosis, particularly in case in which extrahepatic siderosis is not present. In the reference above, a retrospective study enabled autopsies of six stillborn fetuses and two extreme premature infants who had family histories compatible with NH (along with appropriate controls); the autopsy cases were identified as having GALD– based on liver immunostains with C5b-9 complex.  The implications of this study for pediatricians:

  • When faced with a newborn with coagulopathy or liver failure with family history of stillbirth, consider linking the events immediately & evaluate for NH.  However, this clue has limited utility as NH is the most frequent reason for liver failure in newborns; though, many  newborns with liver failure are often treated for sepsis prior to consideration of NH.
  • Establishing a proper diagnosis, allows management of subsequent pregnancies.  GALD is extremely likely to recur in subsequent pregnancies & can be treated by administration of IVIG to expectant at-risk mothers.

Additional references:

  • -J Pediatr 2011; 159: 813.  Study of ALF in young infants.  38% were indeterminate, ~14% NH, 12% herpes.  n=148. 60% survived w/o OLT, 24% died, 16% OLT
  • -Hepatology 2010; 51: 2061 (edit 1888). Fetal hepatocyte injury involves terminal complement cascade –very good article from Whittington et al. NH being renamed ‘congenital alloimmune hepatitis’
  • -J Pediatr 2009; 155: 566-71. n=16. 75% with good outcome –Rx’d with IVIG (1gm/kg) and exchange transfusion (7 had double volume ET and 6 had less). Appeared to reduce need for liver transplant. Some response with regard to hypoglycemia was fairly quick but most parameters like coagulopathy improved slowly ~2 weeks. Previous historical survival ~36%. (5 of 10 w transplant and 2 of 9 w/o transplant).
  • -Pediatrics 2008; 121: e1615. Weekly IVIG during pregnancy after 18th week of gestation very effective in preventing severe NH
  • -Hepatology 2006; 43: 654. Review by Whitington. MRI detects disease in ~90%. Mucosal biopsy abnl in about 2/3rds of patients. Explains iron homeostasis and alloimmunity.
  • -Liver Tx 2005; 11: 1323 (ed), 1417. Medical treatment ineffective, try transplant. “All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time except those whom it does not help, who all die. It is obvious, therefore, that it fails only in incurable cases.” –Galen, circa 100AD
  • -JPGN 2005; 40: 544. NH is probably an alloimmune dz.
  • -Lancet 2004; 364: 1690-8.

1 thought on “The more you know the more you see

  1. Pingback: Improving Fatty Liver Disease Nomenclature | gutsandgrowth

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