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Gut. 1998 Nov;43(5):705-10.

Fatigue in primary biliary cirrhosis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Toronto Hospital, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Fatigue is a frequent and debilitating symptom in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC).


To study fatigue in relation to sleep, depression, and liver disease severity.


Patients with PBC completed validated self report questionnaires measuring fatigue, sleep quality, depression, and functional capacity. Verbally reported fatigue and observer rated measure of depression and ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) use were recorded. Liver biochemistry and tests to rule out metabolic causes of fatigue were performed.


Mean age of the 88 patients enrolled was 57 years; 86% were female and mean duration of disease was 6.6 years. Median bilirubin was 13 micromol/l (mean 18.6). Verbally reported fatigue (for more than six months) was present in 60 patients (68%). The self rated Fatigue Severity Score (FSS) correlated well with verbally reported fatigue (p=0.0001). The FSS did not correlate with age, duration of disease, serum bilirubin, Mayo Risk Score, or UDCA use, but correlation was seen with sleep quality. Fatigued patients had more sleep problems and higher depression scores than non-fatigued patients. Self rated depression was present in 28% (17/60) of fatigued compared with 4% (1/28) of non-fatigued patients.


Long term fatigue affected 68% of the patients with PBC but it was not related to the severity of their liver disease. Poor sleep quality and depression were commonly associated with fatigue.

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