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Background Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) remains a challenging disease to manage. The main goals are prevention of disease progression and reduction of the increased cancer risk. Aims To review the management strategies for PSC and its variant forms based on published studies. Methods Publications were identified using Pubmed, Medline and Ovid search engines. Results Distinguishing PSC from variants, such as IgG4-associated cholangitis, and overlap with autoimmune hepatitis is essential to guide treatment decisions. There is no proven efficacious medical treatment for PSC. Ursodeoxycholic acid has been disappointing in low and moderate doses, and potentially dangerous in higher doses, although its role and optimal dose in chemoprevention requires investigation. The novel bile acid, 24-norursodeoxycholic acid, has shown promise in mouse models; human trials are in progress. Dominant strictures are optimally managed by dilatation and stenting to relieve obstructive complications, although exclusion of biliary malignancy is essential. Liver transplantation is the only proven therapy for those with advanced disease. Cholangiocarcinoma remains the most unpredictable and feared complication. In highly selected groups, neo-adjuvant chemoradiation with liver transplantation seems promising, but requires further validation. Screening for inflammatory bowel disease and surveillance for colorectal carcinoma should not be overlooked. Conclusion The effective management of PSC and its variants is hindered by uncertainties regarding pathogenesis of disease and factors responsible for its progression. Genome studies may help to identify further targets for drug therapy and factors leading to malignant transformation. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Publication Date