Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Liver Cytology in Small Animals


Sharon A. Center

, DVM, DACVIM, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

Reviewed/Revised May 2015 | Modified Oct 2022

Ultrasonographic-guided fine-needle aspirates are routinely used to confirm a diagnosis of HL in cats and to identify suppurative septic inflammation, neoplasia, and glycogen-like VH. However, definitive diagnosis of hepatic disease is otherwise impossible with liver aspirates because the absence of acinar architecture compromises anatomic orientation and correct interpretation. Cytologic interpretation of liver aspirates are notoriously discordant with histologic findings on biopsy specimens. Neither neoplasia nor sepsis can be definitively excluded using cytology, and inflammatory disease is too often suspected. Cytology should not be the basis to recommend immunomodulatory or antifibrotic medications or longterm chelation therapy for copper-associated hepatopathy. Rather, liver biopsy remains the standard for diagnoses of most hepatic disorders.

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