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Primary biliary cholangitis 

Primary biliary cholangitis
Chapter:
Primary biliary cholangitis
Author(s):

Jessica K. Dyson

, and David E.J. Jones

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0325
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date: 25 February 2021

Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), previously known as primary biliary cirrhosis, is a chronic, cholestatic liver disease in which the biliary epithelial cells lining the small intrahepatic bile ducts are the target for immune-mediated damage, leading to progressive ductopenia and cholestasis. The cause is unknown but presumed to be autoimmune. The disorder affects women (>90% of cases) and usually has an insidious onset in middle age. Younger patients are less common but have a more aggressive disease course. Fatigue and pruritus are the most common presenting symptoms. Findings on examination vary widely, ranging from no abnormality to jaundice with hyperpigmentation, scratch marks, and rarely the features of advanced liver disease. Diagnosis of PBC is based on three criteria: (1) cholestatic liver function tests, with increases in serum alkaline phosphatase and γ‎-glutamyl transferase, (2) presence of serum antimitochondrial antibodies (found in more than 95% of cases), and (3) compatible liver histology. Many asymptomatic patients are recognized following the incidental discovery of antimitochondrial antibodies or elevated levels of serum alkaline phosphatase. First-line treatment is with ursodeoxycholic acid which can lead to significant improvement in liver biochemical values. Second-line treatment is with obeticholic acid. No immunosuppressive drug regimen has been proven effective. Progression may be slow, but eventually patients can develop cirrhosis. Cholestyramine is used as first line to treat pruritus. There is no recognized treatment for fatigue. Liver transplantation is indicated in some cases.

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