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Hepatology. 2008 Feb;47(2):544-51.

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy: Amelioration of pruritus by UDCA is associated with decreased progesterone disulphates in urine.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital/East, Gothenburg, Sweden.


Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is characterized by pruritus, elevated bile acids, and, specifically, elevated disulphated progesterone metabolites. We aimed to study changes in these parameters during treatment with dexamethasone or ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in 40 out of 130 women included in the Swedish ICP intervention trial (26 randomized to placebo or UDCA, 14 randomized to dexamethasone). Serum bile acid profiles and urinary steroid hormone metabolites were analyzed using isotope-dilution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and electrospray-mass spectrometry. We found that all patients displayed ICP-typical serum bile acid profiles with >50% cholic acid at baseline but almost 80% UDCA upon treatment with this bile acid. In UDCA-treated patients, relative amounts of disulphated progesterone metabolites in urine decreased by 34%, 48% (P < 0.05), and 55% (P < 0.05) after 1, 2, and 3 weeks of treatment, respectively, which was significantly correlated to improvements of pruritus scores but not to serum bile acid levels. In contrast, in patients randomized to dexamethasone or placebo, no changes in steroid metabolites or pruritus scores were observed.


UDCA treatment in ICP decreased urinary excretion of disulphated progesterone metabolites, suggesting that amelioration of pruritus is connected to stimulation of hepatobiliary excretion of progesterone disulphates.

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