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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2002 Sep;17(9):938-48.

Extrahepatic manifestations of cholestasis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine II, Klinikum of the University of Munich-Grosshadern, Munich, Germany.


Pruritus, fatigue and metabolic bone disease represent three major extrahepatic manifestations of chronic cholestatic liver disease that considerably affect the patient's quality of life. The present article reviews pathogenetic aspects of and current therapeutic approaches to extrahepatic manifestations of cholestatic liver disease. Pathogenesis of pruritus of cholestasis remains poorly understood. The involvement of putative peripherally acting pruritogens, such as bile acids or endogenous opioids, is being discussed. More recently, central mechanisms, including an increased central opioidergic tone and pertubations in the serotonergic system have been proposed. Treatment of the underlying disease is beneficial also for the control of cholestasis-associated pruritus. Current therapeutic recommendations include ursodeoxycholic acid, cholestyramine, rifampicin and opioid antagonists. Liver transplantation may be indicated when severe pruritus is refractory to medical treatment. Fatigue is being recognized as the most frequent and one of the most disabling complaints in chronic cholestasis. Fatigue is presumably of central origin and its association with other neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders) is consistent with defective central neurotransmission. No specific therapies are currently available and a healthy lifestyle, regular sleep and avoidance of unnecessary stress and other precipiting factors are recommended. Antidepressant therapy may be warranted in selected patients. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are common in chronic cholestatic liver disease, whereas osteomalacia is rare. The pathophysiology of cholestasis-associated metabolic bone disease is regarded as multifactorial. Therapeutic recommendations include regular exercise, calcium and vitamin D supplementation in late stage disease, hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women and bisphosphonates.

Copyright 2002 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd

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