The evolution of natural history of primary sclerosing cholangitis

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a rare, idiopathic biliary disease often with an insidious onset, variable disease course, and premature death related to benign and malignant PSC-related sequelae. This review aims to discuss the epidemiology, clinical variants, and natural history of PSC, incorporating data from recent population-based studies.

Recent findings

PSC naturally leads to cirrhosis, cholangiocarcinoma, other hepatobiliary malignancies, dominant strictures, hepatic osteodystrophy, and bacterial cholangitis. The incidence of PSC appears to be increasing, the reasons for which are unclear. The time from diagnosis to liver transplant appears to be longer in more recent studies compared with earlier studies, suggesting a better overall prognosis than previously believed. In addition, with an increasing number of patients undergoing liver transplantation for PSC, the frequency of death because of liver failure has decreased, whereas cancer-related deaths have increased among patients with PSC.

Summary

PSC is a heterogeneous disease with a variety of clinical outcomes, both fatal and nonfatal. The progression of liver fibrosis in an individual patient is difficult to predict and may vary from a relatively benign, nonprogressive form to a rapidly progressive form with the need for liver transplantation.

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