Primary sclerosing cholangitis

L M Alba, P Angulo, K D Lindor
Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2002, 48 (2): 99-113
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic cholestatic syndrome of unknown etiology frequently associated with inflammatory bowel disease and characterized by diffuse inflammation and fibrosis of the intra and/or extrahepatic bile ducts. Recent studies seem to favor autoimmunity in the context of a genetic predisposition as the most likely underlying mechanism for the development of the disease, however our knowledge on the pathogenesis of PSC is still incomplete and further work is needed. The most common manifestations are fatigue, pruritus, jaundice and abdominal pain; however, the increasing use of invasive cholangiography has led to diagnosing this condition in a high proportion of asymptomatic patients. PSC usually follows a progressive course leading to biliary cirrhosis with complications of portal hypertension and hepatic failure. Patients with PSC also may develop a number of other complications, including bacterial cholangitis, dominant biliary strictures, conditions of chronic cholestasis, colorectal cancer and cholangiocarcinoma. Currently, no medical therapy aimed at disrupting disease progression is available, although high-dose ursodeoxycholic acid and other medicines are being evaluated in clinical trials. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease will serve as a guide for evaluating new medical approaches. Liver transplantation is the only therapeutic alternative that improves survival in patients with end-stage PSC. Prognostic models are useful in determining the timing of liver transplantation.

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