Small-cell carcinoma of the lung manifesting as acute hepatic failure

Brendan M. McGuire, David L. Cherwitz, Kim M. Rabe, B. Ho Samuel

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36 Scopus citations


In this report, we describe four cases of small-cell carcinoma of the lung manifesting as acute hepatic failure. These cases were noteworthy for the presence of hepatomegaly and substantially increased serum lactate dehydrogenase and uric acid levels. The ratio of normalized serum lactate dehydrogenase to normalized serum alanine aminotransferase from the 4 cases reported herein (mean ± SE, 3.63 ± 1.10) was significantly greater than the ratio obtained from the 12 cases of nonmalignant fulminant hepatic failure (mean ± SE, 0.46 ± 0.18; P<0.001). Chest radiographs and abdominal imaging studies showed no neoplastic process in three of the four cases. Postmortem examinations disclosed extensive infiltration of the liver by metastatic small-cell carcinoma of the lung. A review of the literature revealed 13 additional similar cases. We conclude that metastatic small-cell carcinoma of the lung should be considered in cases of acute hepatic failure associated with hepatomegaly, substantially increased lactate dehydrogenase levels in comparison with alanine aminotransferase values, and increased uric acid levels even if imaging studies show no lesion. A liver biopsy done early during the hospital course is appropriate for diagnosis and for prevention of inappropriate transfer of the patient to a liver transplant center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-139
Number of pages7
JournalMayo Clinic Proceedings
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


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