A history of alcoholism in a patient complaining of jaundice is apt to suggest an otherwise uncomplicated hepatic cirrhosis. Valuable as it often is in this regard, such a history may at times prove quite misleading. The physician may discover, to his surprise, that he is not dealing with cirrhosis in its usual manifestations nor even with liver disease. It is well to bear in mind that cirrhosis occurs in only one out of every 12 alcoholics, although it is seven time as common in the alcoholic as in the nonalcoholic.1 As Klatskin has indicated, this implies, among other factors, differences in individual susceptibility to the effects of alcohol.1
The alcoholic who stops eating but continues drinking may suffer marked inflammatory and degenerative changes superimposed on a preexisting fatty or cirrhotic liver.2 This disorder has been well described by Phillips and Davidson and is characterized by fever, leukocytosis,
Schiff L. Jaundice in the Alcoholic. Arch Intern Med. 1962;110(6):824–826. doi:10.1001/archinte.1962.03620240006003
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.