Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2009; 13 (1 Suppl): 37-44

Atypical sarcoidosis: case reports and review of the literature

M. Giovinale, C. Fonnesu, A. Soriano, C. Cerquaglia, V. Curigliano, E. Verrecchia, G. de Socio, G. Gasbarrini, R. Manna

Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome (Italy)

Sarcoidosis is a granulomatous disease of unknown origin, with pulmonary findings in more than 90% of patients. Extrapulmonary involvement is common and all organs can be involved (especially lymph nodes, eyes, joints, central nervous system) but it is rare to find an isolated extrapulmonary disease (less than 10% of patients). Granulomatous inflammation of the spleen and the liver is common in patients with systemic sarcoidosis, while hepatosplenic enlargement is unusual and splenic involvement rare.
We report two cases of systemic sarcoidosis, that onset with splenic and hepatosplenic disease, and one case with splenic sarcoidosis without pulmonary involvement.
In the first case a 53-year-old woman with mild abdominal pain underwent sonography and CT, which revealed one hypoechoic/hypodense splenic lesion. Laboratory tests were normal. In order to exclude a lymphoma, splenectomy was performed: histology revealed a sarcoid granuloma. After surgery the patient was asymptomatic and now, after two years, disease is silent.
The second case is a 66-year-old woman with a recent weight loss (8 kg in two months) and alterated liver function tests (AST 61 U/l, ALT 72 U/l, Alkaline phosphatase 748 U/l, g-GT 381 U/l). Since she had a familiar history of colon cancer, abdominal US scan, abdominal CT scan and MRI were performed and showed inter-aorto-caval lymphadenopathies and discreet multiple bilobar hepatic and splenic substitutive lesions, with no signs of primary tumor. Upper and lower GI endoscopy, full gynecological workup, complete set of tumor markers, bone marrow biopsy were performed. All resulted negative for neoplasia. Small pulmonary infiltrations were observed on chest-CT scan but cytology on BAL was normal. Infections were also excluded. An exploratory laparotomy showed whitish peritoneal, hepatic and splenic nodules. The histological exam revealed chronic granulomatous lesions typical for sarcoidosis. During a two-year follow-up after the splenectomy the patient feels well without any treatment.
The third patient is a 32-year-old woman with mild epigastric pain after meals. Neck-thoracic CT, bone scintigraphy and upper GI endoscopy were negative. Abdominal US and MR showed splenomegaly with multiple splenic lesions. Splenectomy was performed and histological exam showed chronic granulomatous lesions typical for sarcoidosis. Further laboratory tests were normal, except for ACE (66 UI/l). After the surgery ACE became normal and now, three years later, the patient is still asymptomatic.
We conclude that hepatosplenic involvement is less rare than it is thought. It is often oligosymptomatic or accompanied with unspecific manifestations and laboratory abnormalities. The diagnosis could be difficult; in fact typical laboratory findings of sarcoidosis such as ACE, lysozyme, calcium, were not diagnostic. Ultrasonography and CT were important but the diagnosis was established only with the histological examination of suspected lesions. This latter required to differentiate liver and/or spleen sarcoidosis from tuberculosis and other infections, primary biliary cirrhosis, metastasis or malignant lymphoma.

Corresponding Author: Raffaele Manna, MD; e-mail:

To cite this article

M. Giovinale, C. Fonnesu, A. Soriano, C. Cerquaglia, V. Curigliano, E. Verrecchia, G. de Socio, G. Gasbarrini, R. Manna
Atypical sarcoidosis: case reports and review of the literature

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci
Year: 2009
Vol. 13 - N. 1 Suppl
Pages: 37-44