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Sclerosing cholangitis

Contents of this page:


Digestive system
Digestive system
Bile pathway
Bile pathway

Alternative Names    Return to top

Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Definition    Return to top

Sclerosing cholangitis is swelling (inflammation) of the bile ducts of the liver without a known cause.

Causes    Return to top

In this condition, the bile ducts inside and outside the liver become narrowed and scarred. The cause is unknown.

The disease is associated with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), and genetic factors may also be responsible. Sclerosing cholangitis occurs more often in men than women. This disorder is rare in children.

Symptoms    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The diagnosis is made, in part, by ruling out other diseases of the biliary system -- for example, if there are no stones in the gallbladder or biliary system.

Treatment    Return to top

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

How well patients do varies. The disease tends to get worse over time and most patients develop:

Some patients develop recurrent infections of the bile ducts. Some patients have worsening chronic liver disease with ascites and varices.

Patients with this condition have an increased risk of developing cancer of the bile ducts (cholangiocarcinoma), and should be checked on a regular basis (usually each year) with liver scans and blood tests.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you have jaundice and itching that do not go away.

Update Date: 2/20/2008

Updated by: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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