A quantitative histological analysis of the major salivary glands was carried out at necropsy in 28 alcoholics and in a series of age and sex matched controls. The findings were related to the different types of histologically diagnosed liver disease present. Significant quantitative changes of salivary gland structure were noted in cirrhosis but not in other forms of alcoholic liver disease. In cirrhotic subjects the parotid contained proportionally more adipose but less acinar tissues than in controls. The submandibular gland showed a proportional increase in adiposity and reduction in fibrovascular tissues but no noticeable reduction in its acinar proportional volume. Neither grossly detectable parotid enlargement nor acinar hypertrophy, a feature which has previously been noted as characteristic of alcoholic sialadenosis, were evident in this series. These findings provide little structural support for the reportedly increased secretory capacity of salivary glands in chronic alcohol abuse.
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