Published online Jan 7, 2023. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v29.i1.200
Peer-review started: September 13, 2022
First decision: October 30, 2022
Revised: November 14, 2022
Accepted: December 21, 2022
Article in press: December 21, 2022
Published online: January 7, 2023
Hepatic histologic manifestations of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection are far to be completely investigated. Many authors demonstrated the presence of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 receptor in the liver as well as transmembrane serine protease 2.
Liver injury was demonstrated in 14%-53% of cases of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the first wave of the pandemic few autopsies were performed and only few authors can provide a wide casistic. Authors started to study the histologic manifestations of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the lungs, heart, and liver, too.
The objectives of the study were to summarize the biochemical and histological changes in the liver and to promote the leading role of autopsy in the pandemic.
Authors provide a systematic review focusing on autopsy studies of COVID-19 deaths and in particular on liver pathology.
Forty-six articles corresponding to the inclusion criteria were included, with only 994 autopsy cases of COVID-19 patients. Congestion and steatosis were the main histopathological findings, followed by hepatic necrosis, hepatic and portal inflammation, and fibrosis. The most frequent cause of death was respiratory failure, pulmonary thrombosis, and sepsis. Acute liver failure was indicated as the cause of death in two cases.
The review of the literature highlighted the presence of a great discrepancy in the autopsy protocols, with only half of the autopsies performed as complete (full autopsies), while the other half as partial. Macroscopic and microscopic evaluation of the liver was not always performed or described. Despite the presence of hepatic injury, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the liver has been sought infrequently (16% of the cases).
Much more effort needs to be addressed to completely investigate liver toxicity from COVID-19. Autopsies had a leading role during the pandemic and were important to understand the physiopathology of SARS-CoV-2 infection and should be always considered to improve scientific research.