Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 724–736 | Cite as

Characterization of the Syndrome of Acute Liver Failure Caused by Metastases from Breast Carcinoma

  • Estela Mogrovejo
  • Palaniappan Manickam
  • Mitual Amin
  • Mitchell S. Cappell



To characterize syndrome of acute liver failure (ALF) from metastatic breast cancer to promote premortem diagnosis. Up to now, only 25 % of the reported 32 cases of this syndrome were diagnosed premortem.


Cases identified by computerized literature review and review of files maintained by senior investigator.


Among 32 cases, average age at presentation was 47.9 ± 9.9 years. Common signs include jaundice, hepatomegaly, shifting dullness, and bilateral leg edema. Mean serum level of AST was 296.4 ± 204.0 U/L, ALT, 183.2 ± 198.9 U/L; alkaline phosphatase, 641.5 ± 610.1; and total bilirubin, 8.6 ± 8.3 mg/dL. Twenty-seven patients (84 %) have known prior breast cancer (mean diagnosis = 4.1 + 4.8 years earlier). Abdominal ultrasound findings (N = 10) include hepatomegaly in three cases, heterogeneous/multifocal hepatic lesions in three, ascites in three, and other in two. Abdominal CT findings (N = 16) include heterogeneous/multifocal hepatic lesions in six cases, ascites in five, hepatomegaly in three, cirrhosis in three, fatty liver in two, other in two. Hepatic metastases may not be suspected when abdominal CT shows no hepatic lesions. The diagnosis is made postmortem in 24 cases and antemortem in eight, with a statistically significant trend of increasing premortem diagnosis since 2000 (0 % before 2000 vs. 50 % after 2000; p = .001, 95 %—ORCI ≥ 2.86, Fisher’s exact test). A new case of ALF from breast cancer is reported with notable features: abdominal CT revealed no discrete hepatic lesions despite widespread hepatic metastases demonstrated by liver biopsy; hepatic metastases occurred 21 years after original breast primary; and original diagnosis of lobular breast cancer in primary lesion was corrected to mixed ductal and lobular carcinoma, based on immunohistochemistry, performed 21 years afterward.


This review characterizes the clinical presentation and natural history of this syndrome to promote liver biopsy for premortem diagnosis and appropriate therapy.


Breast cancer Ductal breast carcinoma Lobular breast carcinoma Liver metastases Acute liver failure Fulminant hepatic failure Liver transplantation 


Conflict of interest

None. In particular, Dr Cappell, as a member of the FDA Advisory Committee for GI Drugs, affirms that this paper does not discuss any proprietary confidential pharmaceutical data submitted to the FDA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Estela Mogrovejo
    • 1
  • Palaniappan Manickam
    • 1
  • Mitual Amin
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mitchell S. Cappell
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, MOB 602, Department of MedicineWilliam Beaumont HospitalRoyal OakUSA
  2. 2.Department of PathologyWilliam Beaumont HospitalRoyal OakUSA
  3. 3.Oakland University William Beaumont School of MedicineRoyal OakUSA

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