Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis Secondary to Unknown Underlying Hodgkin Lymphoma Presenting with a Cholestatic Pattern of Liver Injury

A. L. Booth*, P. Osehobo, D. Rodgers-Soriano, A. Lalarukh, M. A. Eltorky, H. L. Stevenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is an uncommon disease that often presents with nonspecific findings. A high index of suspicion is necessary to make a prompt diagnosis and prevent fatal disease. A 45-year-old man presented with fever, hypotension, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Imaging showed hepatosplenomegaly and laboratory tests revealed pancytopenia, increased ferritin, and a cholestatic pattern of injury with elevated alkaline phosphatase and total bilirubin. Due to a history of Crohn disease, systemic lupus erythematous, and rheumatoid arthritis, the patient was on immunosuppressants, including infliximab. After multiple negative cultures, persistent fever, and days of empiric broad spectrum antibiotics, our differential shifted to fever of unknown origin. A liver wedge biopsy revealed areas of sinusoidal dilatation with enlarged, activated macrophages containing erythrocytes and intracytoplasmic iron, consistent with hemophagocytosis due to HLH. The portal tracts showed mixed lymphoplasmacytic inflammation, a prominent bile ductular reaction, periportal fibrosis, and scattered large cells with occasional binucleation and prominent nucleoli. These cells stained positive for Epstein-Barr virus encoding region in situ hybridization, PAX5, CD15, and CD30, and hepatic involvement by classic Hodgkin lymphoma was diagnosed and determined to be the cause of the HLH and cholestatic pattern of injury. Simultaneously, a bone marrow biopsy showed diffuse involvement by Hodgkin lymphoma with a similar staining pattern. Aggressive treatment failed and the patient succumbed to multiorgan failure. HLH is a rare, potentially fatal disease, with nonspecific signs and symptoms, and should be considered in any patient presenting with fever and pancytopenia, especially if they are immune compromised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalCase Reports in Gastroenterology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 13 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cholestatic biliary injury
  • Fever of unknown origin
  • Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis
  • Hodgkin lymphoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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