Inflammatory Nodules Identify Steroid-Responsive Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

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Abstract

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a cholangiopathy—usually associated with inflammatory bowel disease—that leads to cirrhosis and liver failure. Based on a multitude of clinical trials, there is general consensus that PSC progression is unchanged by current therapies, including steroids. However, there are scattered reports in the literature of PSC patients responsive to steroids. Recently, several steroid-responsive PSC mimics have been described, most notably immunoglobulin G4–related sclerosing cholangitis. Following these discoveries, many assume that cases in the literature previously reported as steroid-responsive PSC would now be classified as one of these mimics. We reviewed liver biopsies and the medical histories of patients diagnosed with PSC with documented response to steroids. We identified 3 cases of steroid-responsive PSC in patients with inflammatory bowel disease that do not fit criteria of known PSC mimics. All 3 were adults (age range = 18-44 years) with inflammatory bowel disease, and included 2 males and 1 female. All 3 patients had abnormal liver function tests that normalized on prednisone. Histologically, these 3 cases share a common feature, hepatic fibroinflammatory nodules in a collagen-rich background. They lacked clinical, serologic, and histologic features of immunoglobulin G4–related sclerosing cholangitis. These cases suggest that fibroinflammatory nodules may identify a unique subset of PSC patients who are responsive to steroids.

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