Most common cause of increased hepatic echogenicity

What is the most common cause of increased hepatic echogenicity?

An echogenic liver is defined as increased echogenicity of the liver parenchyma compared with the renal cortex.

Increased hepatic echogenicity, also known as hepatic steatosis or fatty liver, refers to the increased brightness or echogenicity of the liver tissue seen on imaging studies such as ultrasound.

It is typically a result of the accumulation of fat within the liver cells.

The most common cause is hepatic steatosis.

There are numerous causes of hepatic steatosis, including obesity, alcohol abuse, diabetes mellitus, corticosteroid use, malnutrition, and chemotherapy.

Several factors can contribute to increased hepatic echogenicity:

  1. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): NAFLD is the most common cause of increased hepatic echogenicity. It occurs when there is an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver in the absence of significant alcohol consumption. Risk factors for NAFLD include obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and metabolic syndrome.
  2. Alcohol-related Fatty Liver Disease: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to fatty liver disease. It is characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver due to alcohol-induced inflammation and hepatocyte injury. Prolonged alcohol abuse can progress to alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
  3. Medications: Certain medications and drugs, such as corticosteroids, tamoxifen, methotrexate, and amiodarone, may cause fatty infiltration of the liver, leading to increased hepatic echogenicity.
  4. Obesity: Obesity is strongly associated with increased hepatic echogenicity. Excess body weight, particularly abdominal obesity, is a risk factor for developing fatty liver disease.
  5. Metabolic Disorders: Metabolic disorders, such as diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome, can contribute to the development of fatty liver and increased hepatic echogenicity.
  6. Hepatitis C: Chronic hepatitis C infection can lead to fatty liver disease and increased hepatic echogenicity.
  7. Genetic Factors: Certain genetic factors and inherited conditions, such as Wilson’s disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and glycogen storage diseases, can be associated with increased hepatic echogenicity.
  8. Rapid Weight Loss: Sudden or rapid weight loss, particularly in the context of malnutrition or very low-calorie diets, can lead to the development of fatty liver and increased echogenicity.

Causes of generalized increase in hepatic echogenicity include:

  • diffuse fatty change
  • cirrhosis: and/or coarsening
  • chronic hepatitis : and/or coarsening
  • diffuse infiltration or deposition
    • malignant process
    • granulomata 
      • tuberculosis
      • brucellosis
      • sarcoidosis
    • glycogen storage disease
    • hemochromatosis

Assessment of liver echogenicity is of value for detection or exclusion of moderate to pronounced fatty infiltration (correct classification 86.6%) but cannot be relied upon in diagnosing fibrosis, not even cirrhosis in asymptomatic patients with mild to moderately elevated liver transaminases.

Other sonographic features of hepatic steatosis include finer and more compact echotexture and decreased transmission of sound waves such that the deeper aspect of the liver is difficult to visualize, as are the adjacent diaphragm and intrahepatic vessels.

It’s important to note that increased hepatic echogenicity on imaging studies is a finding that requires further evaluation and clinical correlation. Additional tests, such as blood work, imaging with additional modalities (e.g., CT scan, MRI), or liver biopsy, may be necessary to determine the underlying cause and guide appropriate management. Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a hepatologist or gastroenterologist, is recommended for a thorough evaluation and personalized care.


Sign up to receive the trending updates and tons of Health Tips

Join SeekhealthZ and never miss the latest health information