Liver and intrahepatic bile ducts - nontumor
Vascular disorders
Peliosis hepatis

Author: Raul S. Gonzalez, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 21 January 2018, last major update January 2018

Copyright: (c) 2003-2018,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Peliosis hepatis[TI]

Cite this page: Gonzalez, R. Peliosis hepatis. website. Accessed March 19th, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Multiple blood filled cysts in liver, with several potential causes
Essential features
  • Blood filled hepatic spaces of various sizes, usually discovered by radiology or at autopsy
  • Several possible etiologies, including Bartonella henselae or B. quintana infection, which also cause spindle cell / vascular proliferation
  • Two types:
    • "Peliosis hepatis" refers to bland blood filled spaces of various etiologies
    • "Bacillary peliosis" refers to hepatic spindle cell proliferation with small blood vessels and blood filled spaces secondary to Bartonella infection
  • Peliosis should not be confused with lipopeliosis
  • Peliosis may occur in liver or spleen
Clinical features
  • May be asymptomatic or manifest as jaundice, portal hypertension, liver failure, liver rupture or hepatomegaly
  • Patients may also have liver or renal transplant, Castleman disease, nodular regenerative hyperplasia, leukemia / lymphoma (Arch Pathol Lab Med 2004;128:1283)
  • Usually incidental finding at autopsy
Radiology description
  • Blood filled spaces visible on imaging
  • Withdrawal of causative drug, if applicable
  • Erythromycin or doxycycline for Bartonella infections
Clinical images

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Blood-filled spaces on CT

Gross description
  • Honeycomb liver with multiple round, red purple, blood filled spaces of varying sizes
Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Blood lakes of various sizes within the liver, which may be continuous
  • In "phlebectatic" subtype, spaces are lined by endothelium and central veins are dilated
  • In "parenchymal" subtype, spaces are not lined and parenchyma has variable hemorrhagic necrosis (Arch Pathol 1964;77:159)
  • May have calcifications (J Ultrasound Med 1996;15:257)
  • Background liver may show sinusoidal dilation
  • Bacillary peliosis may show angiomatosis, with spindle cell process accompanied by blood vessel proliferation
Microscopic (histologic) images

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Peliosis 1

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Peliosis 2

Virtual slides

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Peliosis hepatis

Positive stains
Differential diagnosis
Board review question #1
    A 45 year old man presents to the emergency department complaining of abdominal pain but collapses and dies before receiving care. Autopsy shows several findings, including a liver studded with numerous blood filled lakes. Microscopically, these spaces are associated with a vascular / spindle cell proliferation. Which of the following other conditions did the patient likely have?

  1. Blue rubber bleb nevus syndrome
  2. Congestive heart failure
  3. Ganglioneuromatosis
  4. Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia
  5. HIV infection
Board review answer #1
E. HIV infection