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Mayo Clin Proc. 1994 Oct;69(10):969-82.

Current concepts in primary sclerosing cholangitis.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905.



To describe primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and its associated complications, as well as medical and surgical treatment.


A review of PSC and its associated etiopathologic factors is presented; numerous studies of agents that are used to treat patients with PSC are discussed.


PSC, a slowly progressive disease that often involves autoimmune damage to the biliary tree, is frequently associated with inflammatory bowel disease, usually chronic ulcerative colitis. Long-term follow-up of patients with PSC has revealed a high incidence of colon cancer and bile duct cancer, both of which are most likely related to the chronic inflammation involving these two organs. Although PSC is an unusual disease, it is now diagnosed with approximately the same frequency as is primary biliary cirrhosis. The histopathologic evolution of PSC results in irreversible damage to bile ducts, which ultimately leads to cholestasis, cirrhosis, liver failure, and premature death from liver failure unless liver transplantation is performed. Therefore, the best chance of achieving success is to treat patients with early-stage disease rather than those with irreversible end-stage cirrhotic disease. Although several medical therapies for PSC have been evaluated, only D-penicillamine, cyclosporine, methotrexate, and, most recently, ursodeoxycholic acid have been studied in controlled clinical trials. Furthermore, several surgical therapies for PSC and its associated complications have been assessed.


Currently, no therapy achieves a complete clinical, biochemical, or histologic remission in this disease. Until the etiopathogenesis of PSC is further defined, effective therapy is unlikely to be found. Thus, liver transplantation will continue to be an important therapeutic intervention for the management of patients with end-stage PSC.

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