Primary biliary cirrhosis

R. Moreno-Otero, M. Lisker-Melman, E. A. Jones

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13 Scopus citations


Primary biliary cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease of unknown etiology characterized by slowly progressive intrahepatic cholestasis due to an inflammatory destruction of small intrahepatic bile ducts. The clinical course of PBC is variable ranging from a few years in rapidly progressive cases to a normal life-expectancy in a proportion of asymptomatic cases. The typical patient is a middle-aged woman who may present with pruritus, increasing pigmentation of the skin, and eventually jaundice. The level of serum alkaline phosphatase is almost invariably elevated, serum mitochondrial antibodies are present in more than 90 per cent, and an elevated serum IgM is usually present. PBC is associated with many immunologic abnormalities and appears to be a classic autoimmune disease. Some of the immune defects may be epiphenomena: others such as a marked defect in suppressor T cell function seem to be related to the pathogenesis of the disease. All drug therapy that is aimed at slowing the disease process is experimental. A place for immunosuppressive drugs in the management of PBC would be anticipated. However, no drug has to date been definitively shown to have a beneficial effect on the disease. Currently, the main treatments used are aimed at preventing or correcting the complications of intractable cholestasis. Patients with PBC and evidence of hepatic decompensation and/or poor quality of life make good candidates for liver transplantation. The current aim of therapy is to find an effective regime of immunosuppression that will make hepatic transplantation redundant for this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-929
Number of pages19
JournalMedical Clinics of North America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989


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