Diagnosis and Management of Primary
Roger Chapman,1Johan Fevery,2Anthony Kalloo,3David M. Nagorney,4Kirsten Muri Boberg,5Benjamin Shneider,6and
Gregory J. Gores7
This guideline has been approved by the American Asso-
ciation for the Study of Liver Diseases and represents the
vide a data-supported approach. They are based on the
following: (1) formal review and analysis of the recently-
published world literature on the topic (Medline search);
(2) American College of Physicians Manual for Assessing
Health Practices and Designing Practice Guidelines1; (3)
guideline policies, including the AASLD Policy on the
Development and Use of Practice Guidelines and the
American Gastroenterological Association Policy State-
ment on Guidelines2; and (4) the experience of the au-
thors in the specified topic.
Intended for use by physicians, these recommenda-
apeutic and preventative aspects of care. They are
intended to be flexible, in contrast to standards of care,
which are inflexible policies to be followed in every case.
Specific recommendations are based on relevant pub-
lished information. To more fully characterize the avail-
able evidence supporting the recommendations, the
AASLD Practice Guidelines Committee has adopted the
classification used by the Grading of Recommendation
Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE)
workgroup with minor modifications (Table 1).3The
strength of recommendations in the GRADE system are
classified as strong (class 1) or weak (class 2). The quality
of evidence supporting strong or weak recommendations
is designated by one of three levels: high (level A), mod-
erate (level B), or low-quality (level C).
Definition and Diagnosis
Definitions. Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a
chronic, cholestatic liver disease characterized by inflam-
mation and fibrosis of both intrahepatic and extrahepatic
bile ducts,4leading to the formation of multifocal bile
duct strictures. PSC is likely an immune mediated, pro-
gressive disorder that eventually develops into cirrhosis,
portal hypertension and hepatic decompensation, in the
majority of patients.5
Small duct PSC is a disease variant which is character-
but normal bile ducts on cholangiography.6PSC overlap
PSC and other immune mediated liver diseases including
autoimmune hepatitis and autoimmune pancreatitis.7
by a similar multifocal biliary stricturing process due to
identifiable causes such as long-term biliary obstruction,
infection, and inflammation which in turn leads to de-
struction of bile ducts and secondary biliary cirrhosis.8
Immunoglobulin G4 (IgG4)-positive sclerosing cholan-
gitis might represent a separate entity.9
with a cholestatic biochemical profile, when cholangiography
retrograde cholangiography [ERC], percutaneous transhepatic
cholangiography) shows characteristic bile duct changes with
multifocal strictures and segmental dilatations, and secondary
causes of sclerosing cholangitis have been excluded.8Patients
compatible with PSC, but have a normal cholangiogram, are
Differential Diagnosis of PSC Versus SSC. Clinical
All AASLD Practice Guidelines are updated annually. If you are viewing a
Practice Guideline that is more than 12 months old, please visit www.aasld.org for
an update in the material.
Abbreviations: AASLD, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases;
AIH, autoimmune hepatitis; CCA, cholangiocarcinoma; ERC, endoscopic retro-
bowel disease; IgG, immunoglobulin G; MRC, magnetic resonance cholangiogra-
tomography; PSC, primary sclerosing cholangitis; SSC, secondary sclerosing cholan-
gitis; UC, ulcerative colitis; UDCA, ursodeoxycholic acid.
versity Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium;3Division of Gastroenterology and
Hepatology, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD;4Division of Gastroen-
Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway;6Children’s Hospital of
Pittsburgh of UPMC, Pittsburgh, PA;7Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatol-
ogy, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Received August 31, 2009; accepted August 31, 2009.
Clinic, Rochester, MN. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2009 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.
described in patients with choledocholithiasis, surgical
trauma of the biliary tree, intra-arterial chemotherapy,
and recurrent pancreatitis.8Other conditions reported to
mimic PSC are listed in Table 2. Distinguishing primary
from SSC may be challenging because PSC patients may
have undergone bile duct surgery or have concomitant
intraductal stone disease or even cholangiocarcinoma
(CCA). The clinical history, distribution of cholangio-
graphic findings, and the presence or absence of inflam-
matory bowel disease (IBD), have to be taken into
consideration when determining if an abnormal cholan-
giogram is due to PSC or secondary processes.8
Signs and Symptoms. The clinical presentation is
variable; typical symptoms include right upper quadrant
abdominal discomfort, fatigue, pruritus, and weight
loss.10Episodes of cholangitis (i.e., fever and chills) are
very uncommon features at presentation, in the absence
Physical examination is abnormal in approximately half
of symptomatic patients at the time of diagnosis; jaun-
dice, hepatomegaly, and splenomegaly are the most fre-
quent abnormal findings.
Many patients with PSC are asymptomatic with no
physical abnormalities at presentation. The diagnosis is
tion tests are investigated. Approximately 60%-80% of
patients with PSC have concomitant IBD, most often
ulcerative colitis (UC).12
Serum Biochemical Tests. Serum biochemical tests
usually indicate cholestasis; elevation of serum alkaline
phosphatase is the most common biochemical abnormal-
ity in PSC.5,10,13However, a normal alkaline phosphatase
activity does not exclude the diagnosis. Serum amino-
transferase levels are elevated in the majority of patients
(2-3 times upper limits of normal), but like the alkaline
phosphatase can also be in the normal range. Serum bili-
rubin levels are normal at diagnosis in the majority of
patients. IgG serum levels are modestly elevated in ap-
proximately 60% of patients (1.5 times the upper limit of
Autoantibodies/Serology. A wide range of autoanti-
bodies can be detected in the serum of patients with PSC
indicating an altered state of immune responsiveness or
immune regulation.15Most are present at low prevalence
rates and at relatively low titers (Table 3). They have no
clear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody which is non-
specific, although it may draw attention to colon
involvement in a cholestatic syndrome.
usually nondiagnostic and may even be normal, although
are often identified. However, gallbladder abnormalities,
including wall thickening, gallbladder enlargement,16
Table 1. Grading of Recommendations, Assessment,
Development and Evaluation (GRADE)
Factors influencing the strength of
the recommendation included the
quality of the evidence, presumed
patient-important outcomes, and
Variability in preferences and values,
or more uncertainty.
Recommendation is made with less
certainty, higher cost or resource
consumption Weak (2)
Further research is unlikely to change
confidence in the estimate of the
Further research may change
confidence in the estimate of the
Further research is very likely to
impact confidence on the estimate of
Table 2. Secondary Causes of Sclerosing Cholangitis
Diffuse intrahepatic metastasis
Hepatic inflammatory pseudotumor
Mast cell cholangiopathy
Portal hypertensive biliopathy
Recurrent pyogenic cholangitis
Surgical biliary trauma
Table 3. Serum Autoantibodies in Primary Sclerosing
Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody
Anti-smooth muscle antibody
Anti-endothelial cell antibody
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2010 CHAPMAN ET AL.661
up to 41% of patients with PSC who undergo US exam-
The findings on computed tomography (CT) cross-
sectional or coronal imaging of the upper abdomen are
bile ducts with contrast enhancement consistent with in-
heterogenous bile duct dilatation, document the presence
of portal hypertension (i.e., varices, splenomegaly, and
ascites), and identify mass lesions.18–22It should be noted
that lymphadenopathy in the abdomen is common in
PSC and should not be over interpreted as metastases or a
lymphoproliferative disorder.22No information exists on
the emerging technology of CT cholangiography for the
diagnosis or evaluation of PSC.
Traditionally, ERC was regarded as the gold standard
cedure associated with potentially serious complications
such as pancreatitis and bacterial cholangitis. Indeed,
ERC is associated with hospitalization in up to 10% of
PSC patients undergoing the procedure25MRC, which is
non-invasive and avoids radiation exposure, has become
the diagnostic imaging modality of choice when PSC is
suspected. ERC and MRC have comparable diagnostic
accuracy, although the visualization of bile ducts may be
less than optimal for certain patients with MRC.26Sensi-
tivity and specificity of MRC is ?80% and ?87%, re-
spectively, for the diagnosis of PSC.26,27However, it
should be noted that that patients with early changes of
PSC may be missed by MRC, and ERC still has a useful
role in excluding large duct PSC where MRC views may
not be optimal.
A cholangiographic assessment of the extrahepatic and
of large duct PSC.24The characteristic cholangiographic
nating with normal or slightly dilated segments produc-
ing a “beaded” pattern.23,24Long, confluent strictures
development of superimposed cholangiocarcinoma.23
Both the intra- and extrahepatic bile ducts are usually
involved, although a subset of patients (?25%) may only
have intrahepatic disease. Conversely, lesions confined to
the extrahepatic ducts are quite unusual (usually ?5%)
and should only be diagnosed in the presence of adequate
filling of the intrahepatic ducts. The gallbladder, cystic
duct and pancreatic duct may also be involved in PSC
Role of Liver Biopsy. Liver histological findings
the changes at an early stage are non-specific although
concentric (“onion-skin”) fibrosis is a classic histopatho-
logic finding of PSC, but this observation is infrequent in
PSC liver biopsy specimens and may also be observed in
SSC. A retrospective study in 138 patients with cholan-
giographic features of PSC suggested that liver biopsy
rarely adds useful diagnostic information.28
In the presence of an abnormal cholangiogram, a liver
biopsy is therefore not required to establish a diagnosis of
large duct PSC, although is essential in suspected small
duct PSC, and for the assessment of possible overlap syn-
serum aminotransferase values, especially if the antinu-
clear antigen and/or smooth muscle antigen is positive
and/or serum IgG levels are elevated, a liver biopsy may
identify features of a PSC–autoimmune hepatitis (AIH)
PSC-AIH Overlap Syndrome. PSC-AIH overlap
syndrome is a disorder mainly described in children and
young adults.29–37It is characterized by the clinical, bio-
of cholangiographic findings identical to PSC.38,39Diag-
nosis of an overlap syndrome by use of the modified AIH
score was established in 8% of 113 PSC patients from the
Netherlands,40in 1.4% of 211 PSC patients from the
United States,41in 17% of 41 PSC patients from Italy,42
and in 6.1% of 264 patients with AIH from England.37
Autoimmune Pancreatitis (Immunoglobulin G4–
Associated Cholangitis) and PSC. Autoimmune pan-
creatitis (AIP) is a clinical entity characterized by
stricturing of the pancreatic duct, focal or generalized
pancreatic enlargement, a raised serum immunoglobulin
G4 (IgG4) level, a lymphoplasmacytic infiltrate on bi-
opsy, and a response to corticosteroid therapy.43AIP in
association with intrahepatic and extrahepatic bile duct
stricturing similar to those present in PSC is termed au-
toimmune pancreatitis–sclerosing cholangitis (AIP-SC).
Pancreatic abnormalities are not universally found, sug-
gesting that IgG4-associated cholangitis (IAC) may be a
more appropriate term to describe the condition.44
A recent study found an elevated serum IgG4 level
(?140 mg/dL) in 9% of a cohort of 127 patients with
PSC.45In comparison to patients with PSC with normal
IgG4 concentrations, the former group had significantly
higher levels of alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin, in ad-
dition to higher PSC Mayo risk scores. An association
although biliary and pancreatic involvement were similar
in both groups.45Whether PSC and AIP represent differ-
ent ends of the same disease spectrum or are separate
clinical entities is of debate, although current evidence
favors the latter.
662CHAPMAN ET AL.HEPATOLOGY, February 2010
Recommendations (Fig. 1):
1. In patients with cholestatic biochemical profile,
we recommend indirect (MRC) or direct cholangiog-
raphy (ERCP) for making the diagnosis of PSC (1A).
2. We recommend against routine liver biopsy for
the diagnosis of PSC in patients with typical cholan-
giographic findings (1B).
3. In patients with a normal ERC or MRC, we
recommend a liver biopsy to diagnose small duct PSC
4. In patients with disproportionately elevated
aminotransferases, we recommend performing a liver
biopsy to diagnose or exclude overlap syndrome (1B).
5. In all patients with possible PSC, we suggest
measuring serum IgG4 levels to exclude IgG4-associ-
ated sclerosing cholangitis (2C).
Dominant Strictures in PSC
Definition. A “dominant stricture” has been defined
as a stenosis with a diameter of ?1.5 mm in the common
bile duct or of ?1 mm in the hepatic duct.46,47It is a
frequent finding and occurs in 45% to 58% of patients
during follow up.5,46,48It should always raise the suspi-
cion of the presence of a cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), be-
cause this malignant complication of PSC occurs
frequently as a stenotic ductal lesion in the perihilar re-
gion. Although CCA may develop in approximately
10%-15% of PSC patients, stenotic lesions are far more
often benign than malignant in nature.49The distinction
between a dominant stricture and CCA is difficult; the
diagnosis of CCA is discussed below in this guideline.
Endoscopic and Percutaneous Management. The
goal of an endoscopic or percutaneous therapeutic ap-
proach to the management of patients with PSC is to
relieve biliary obstruction. The stricturing disease of PSC
may cause extrahepatic ductal obstruction and therefore
lead to symptoms and decompensation of liver function.
Some 15%-20% of patients will experience obstruction
from discrete areas of narrowing within the extrahepatic
biliary tree.24,50,51It is generally agreed that patients with
symptoms from dominant strictures such as cholangitis,
jaundice, pruritus, right upper quadrant pain or worsen-
ing biochemical indices, are appropriate candidates for
therapy. The percutaneous approach is associated with
increased morbidity but similar efficacy as the endoscopic
approach and is reserved for patients who have proximal
dominant strictures with a failed endoscopic approach.52,53
ogy and/or endoscopic biopsy should be obtained to help
endoscopic approach is still debated; multiple techniques
have been utilized such as sphincterotomy, catheter or
balloon dilatation, and stent placement.51–54Of these,
only endoscopic biliary sphincterotomy and balloon dila-
tation with or without stent placement have been found
to be of value.51–59Because injecting contrast agent into
an obstructed duct may precipitate cholangitis, perioper-
ative antibiotics should be administered. Sphincterotomy
alone has been performed in small subsets of patients,
usually when stent placement was unsuccessful. In these
small uncontrolled groups, bilirubin and alkaline phos-
of Oddi may be involved by the sclerosing process and
therefore contribute to biliary obstruction. Nevertheless,
Fig. 1. Algorithm for the diagnosis of PSC.
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2010CHAPMAN ET AL. 663
sphincterotomy is rarely used alone, but rather to facili-
tate balloon dilatation, stent placement or stone extrac-
Stricture dilatation can be accomplished through bal-
loons or coaxial dilators. Balloon dilatation has been
shown to be effective alone.52,56,57It may be performed
periodically with or without stenting. However, biliary
stenting has been shown to be associated with increased
complications when compared to endoscopic dilatation
only and should be reserved for strictures that are refrac-
tory to dilatation.52–57
At this time there has not been a randomized con-
trolled study to evaluate the effectiveness of endoscopic
therapy. Still, much indirect evidence by large retrospec-
tive studies, suggest that endoscopic therapy results in
clinical improvement and prolonged survival. Baluyut et
al. evaluated their population of patients with PSC and
dominant strictures who underwent endoscopic balloon
was significantly better than that predicted by the Mayo
Risk Score (83% versus 65%, P ? 0.027).58This is the
first study to suggest that therapy may actually impact the
natural history of the disease. More recently, Gluck et al.
described a 20 year experience with endoscopic therapy
for 84 symptomatic patients with PSC.59Similar to the
Baluyut study, observed patient survival was higher than
expected by the Mayo Risk Score.59
All therapeutic endoscopy comes with risk. In the two
largest reported series of patients with long follow-up, the
risk of complications was 7.3%-20%. The complications
most common complications were pancreatitis, cholangi-
tis, biliary tract perforation and hemorrhage.
Surgical Management of Dominant Strictures. Fo-
has been the primary indication for the nontransplant
surgical management of PSC. Despite limitations of the
accuracy of current diagnostic modalities for malignancy
in PSC, diagnostic laparotomy has little clinical value.
an obstruction caused by a dominant stricture. Non-
transplant surgical approaches include biliary bypass by
cholangio-enterostomy or resection of the extrahepatic
biliary stricture and Roux Y hepaticojejunostomy.60,61
Biliary bypass alone has been employed infrequently be-
cause dominant strictures are typically hilar. Moreover,
the intrahepatic ducts are variably involved which limits
the access and quality of these ducts for bypass.60Biliary
bypass has no role in PSC patients with cirrhosis.
Extrahepatic bile duct resection and Roux Y hepati-
cojejunostomy with or without stenting for dominant
strictures is controversial.53,61Current evidence suggests
that selected patients with non-cirrhotic stage PSC have
an overall survival of 83% at 5 years and 60% at 10 years
and a readmission free rate from cholangitis of 57% at 3
years for such an approach.62Bilirubin levels ? 2 mg/dL
and cirrhosis are associated with decreased survival. No
data regarding surgical management have shown that ei-
ther bypass or resection of a dominant stricture affect
natural history or disease progression.
Bacterial Cholangitis. Most patients, who have not
had biliary tree instrumented, have negative microbial
bile cultures.63,64However, dominant strictures can in-
duce stagnation of bile resulting in bacterial colonization
and secondary cholangitis. This can be the first presenta-
tion of the disease occurring in 6.1% of PSC patients in
gitis may play a role in the progression of the disease. The
relevance of a bile duct stricture was demonstrated by
PSC patients (40.5%) with a dominant stricture but not
in the absence of such stenosis; short-course antibiotic
However, most patients respond to therapeutic drainage
of the obstruction plus antibiotics. Occasional patients
phylactic long term antibiotics. Rarely, recurrent cholan-
gitis can be so severe as to become the primary indication
Pruritus. The management of pruritus in PSC pa-
tients should prompt consideration of a dominant stric-
ture. In the absence of a dominant stricture, the
management of pruritus is similar to that for pruritus in
primary biliary cirrhosis. Please see the AASLD Guide-
lines on the Management of PBC.68
6. In patients with increases in serum bilirubin
and/or worsening pruritus progressive bile duct dila-
tation on imaging studies, and/or cholangitis, we rec-
ommend performing an ERC promptly to exclude a
dominant stricture (1B).
7. In patients with dominant strictures from PSC,
we recommend initial management with endoscopic
dilatation with or without stenting (1B).
8. In patients with dominant strictures from PSC
in whom an endoscopic approach is unsuccessful, bil-
iary tract dilatation by percutaneous cholangiography
with or without stenting should be considered (1B).
9. We recommend performing brush cytology
and/or endoscopic biopsy to exclude a superimposed
malignancy prior to endoscopic therapy for dominant
664 CHAPMAN ET AL.HEPATOLOGY, February 2010
10. In patients with dominant strictures refractory
to endoscopic and/or percutaneous management, we
recommend surgical therapy in selected patients with-
out cirrhosis C (1B).
11. We recommend antimicrobial therapy with
correction of bile duct obstruction in dominant stric-
tures to effectively resolve cholangitis (1A).
12. In patients with recurrent bacterial cholangi-
tis, we recommend the use of prophylactic long-term
13. In patients with refractory bacterial cholangi-
tis, we recommend evaluation for liver transplanta-
When cirrhosis is present in a patient with PSC, portal
hypertension (PHT) will gradually develop because it
constitutes part of the natural history of all patients with
let count is a predictor of the presence of esophageal var-
ices also in PSC. Of 283 PSC patients newly diagnosed at
Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) 36% (n ? 102) had vari-
ces, of which 56% had moderate/large varices and 28 had
already bled. Independent predictors of esophageal vari-
ces and of moderate/large size varices were platelet count,
trolling for the presence of advanced histologic stage and
albumin levels, the odds ratios (OR) of platelet count less
than 150 ? 103/dL for the presence of esophageal varices
was 6.3 (95% CI: 2.6-15.8).69Similar conclusions were
reached in Mexico in a smaller group.70
Portal hypertension may, however, be present in pa-
tients with PSC who do not yet have cirrhosis, but this is
uncommon. Of 306 liver transplants performed during
1995-2003 for chronic biliary tract disease, 26 (8.5%)
PSC. Of the 11 patients with portal hypertension as the
major indication for OLT, nodular regenerative hyper-
plasia (NRH) was prominent in 8 (73%) and obliterative
portal venopathy in 6 (55%) at histopathological exami-
nation. Thus, precirrhotic PHT may contribute as an
indication for OLT.67The management of portal hyper-
tension in patients with PSC does not differ from non-
PSC patients and has been discussed in prior AASLD
Metabolic Bone Disease
Hepatic osteodystrophy is the term used for the meta-
The diagnosis is made by bone mineral density measure-
ment whereby osteopenia is characterized by a T-score
between 1 and 2.5 standard deviations below the density
observed in young normal individuals, and osteoporosis
PSC is between 4 and 10%. The incidence increases with
decreasing body mass index, with increasing duration of
the disease, with age, and possibly with severity of the
disease,72although this was not confirmed.73
Hepatic osteodystrophy should thus be looked for in
all newly diagnosed patients with PSC. Although infor-
mation is lacking, it is reasonable to screen for osteopenia
thereafter at 2-3 year intervals. Calcium and additional
vitamin D to promote calcium absorption is recom-
proven osteoporosis bisphosphonates may be added.74
Bisphosphonate therapy induces a significant improve-
ment in bone density in PBC patients.75Oral bisphos-
phonates have been associated with esophageal ulcers
which could be problematic in patients with esophageal
varices; in these patients parenteral bisphosphonate ther-
apy is an alternative approach.
14. We recommend bone density examinations to
exclude osteopenia or osteoporosis at diagnosis and,
thereafter, at 2-3 year intervals (1B).
15. In patients with hepatic osteopenia, we suggest
the use of calcium 1.0-1.5 g and vitamin D 1,000 IU
daily for therapy (2C).
16. In patients with hepatic osteoporosis, we sug-
gest the use of bisphosphonate therapy in addition to
calcium and vitamin D supplementation (2C).
17. In patients with osteoporosis and esophageal
varices, we suggest the use of parenteral forms of
bisphosphonate therapy rather than oral formulations
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and PSC
Epidemiology. PSC is strongly associated with IBD.
In most series of patients from Northern Europe and
the range 60%-80%.10,13,50,76The most frequent type of
IBD in PSC is UC, which is diagnosed in 48%-86%
disease (CD) which usually involves the colon.76,77Con-
versely, PSC has been diagnosed in between 2.4% and
7.5% of patients with UC76and was found in 3.4%
alence of PSC among IBD patients is difficult to assess,
because accurate data require that cholangiography is car-
ried out in unselected groups of patients.
Diagnosis. The diagnosis and classification of IBD in
PSC are based on ordinary diagnostic criteria, including
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2010CHAPMAN ET AL.665
findings on colonoscopy with multiple biopsies.76Be-
cause rectal sparing is a common feature,77a full colonos-
copy is necessary. Moreover, as IBD in PSC may be
present with little or no clinical evidence of bowel disease
and a diagnosis of IBD has implications in terms of fol-
low-up, a full colonoscopy with multiple biopsies is rec-
initial colonoscopy with biopsies is negative for IBD, it is
symptoms should be repeated over time.
PSC. In the majority of cases, the diagnosis of IBD pre-
cedes that of PSC, even by several years.13,77,81IBD and
PSC are sometimes diagnosed concomitantly.82Onset of
IBD can also occur some years after the diagnosis of PSC,
and de novo IBD may present after liver transplantation
for PSC.83PSC may be diagnosed at any time during the
course of IBD, and may present several years after proc-
IBD in PSC: A Unique Phenotype. Several clinical
and endoscopic features of IBD in PSC differ from those
of IBD without evidence of hepatobiliary disease (Table
4). Loftus et al.77compared 71 patients with PSC who
had IBD with a matched group of 142 patients with UC.
7% had indeterminate colitis. The PSC patients more
frequently had pancolitis (87% versus 54%), rectal spar-
ing (52% versus 6%), and “backwash ileitis” (51% versus
the colitis associated with PSC usually is extensive.13,79,82
This observation also includes CD in PSC, that typically
manifests as extensive colitis.76CD confined to the small
bowel is not associated with PSC.76,78Interestingly, it has
been noted that the CD colitis may not always have fea-
tures strongly suggestive of CD.77,84A definite classifica-
tion of the IBD in PSC may be difficult and can vary
between centers. The presence of rectal sparing or ileal
ters as CD or indeterminate colitis, rather than UC.77,84
IBD in children with PSC is also characterized by exten-
sive colitis, often with rectal sparing, and mild clinical
Although symptoms of IBD in PSC cannot be distin-
guished from those of IBD without PSC,76the bowel
disease in PSC tends to run a more quiescent course.77,85
The IBD can also have a prolonged subclinical course.79
In a follow-up study of 27 PSC patients with IBD, 12
patients (44%) reported disease activity during the first
time after diagnosis of IBD, followed by a quiescent
phase.81Seven (26%) patients had intermittent disease
activity. Follow-up colonoscopy revealed mild or inactive
disease in the majority of cases (16 patients; 76%), how-
ever, 16 patients had experienced some complication of
IBD during the observation period.
compared to patients with UC without PSC.77,86,87Pre-
disposing factors for this complication are unknown. Al-
though one report suggests that patients with PSC and
the ileal pouch mucosa compared with UC patients with-
out PSC and that these patients consequently should un-
dergo regular screening,88studies in larger cohorts of
patients should be carried out to confirm the findings.
Risk of Malignancy. UC is associated with an in-
creased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).89–93Indeed, a
thorough meta-analysis including 11 studies, indicates
that patients with UC and PSC are at an increased risk of
CRC and dysplasia compared with patients with UC
alone, with OR 4.79 (95% CI 3.58-6.41).94In a recent
younger at onset of IBD than patients who had IBD and
CRC without PSC (19 versus 29 years; P ? 0.04).95The
time interval from onset of colitis until diagnosis of CRC
was, however, similar in the two groups (17 versus 20
years; P ? 0.02).
Given the increased risk of CRC in patients with PSC,
the time of diagnosis of PSC in patients with UC as rec-
ommended by several experienced centers.77,79,96,97Colo-
rectal neoplasia associated with PSC appears to have a
predilection for the proximal colon, with up to 76% hav-
ing a right-sided distribution.93A full colonoscopy is
therefore necessary during surveillance. Due to the in-
creased risk of CRC in Crohn colitis, patients with PSC
who have CD are recommended to be surveyed similarly
to patients with UC.80,98
Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has been suggested to
decrease the risk of colorectal dysplasia in patients with
with a decreased prevalence of colonic dysplasia (OR
0.18, 95% CI 0.05-0.61) in a cross-sectional study of 59
PSC patients with UC100and significantly decreased the
risk for developing colorectal dysplasia or cancer (relative
Table 4. Characteristics of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Associated with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
● Extensive colitis (with right-sided predominance of inflammatory activity)
● Rectal sparing
● Backwash ileitis
● Mild or quiescent course
● Increased risk of colorectal neoplasia
● Increased risk of pouchitis in patients undergoing proctocolectomy with IPAA
● Increased risk of peristomal varices in patients undergoing proctocolectomy
666 CHAPMAN ET AL.HEPATOLOGY, February 2010
risk, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.06-0.92) in a follow-up of 52 pa-
tients with PSC and UC after a randomized, placebo-
controlled trial of UDCA.99In a study comparing 28
6 months with 92 untreated patients, UDCA did not
decrease the risk of cancer or dysplasia.101All of these
studies have been based on retrospective analysis with its
inherent limitations. Furthermore, high dose UDCA can
be problematic in PSC patients.102UDCA use as a che-
mopreventative agent in PSC patients can not be rou-
tinely recommended given the limited information
PSC patients who have an ileostomy after proctocolec-
tomy and who develop portal hypertension, are prone to
recurrent and difficult to treat.103This complication can
be controlled with a portosystemic shunt or transjugular
intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS), but liver trans-
plantation may be considered.79IPAA is less complicated
with variceal formation86and PSC patients undergoing
IPAA have good functional results.104
18. We recommend full colonoscopy with biopsies
in patients with a new diagnosis of PSC and no
previous history or symptoms of IBD (1A).
19. In patients with IBD and PSC, we recommend
surveillance colonoscopy with biopsies at 1-year to
2-year intervals from the time of diagnosis of PSC to
exclude colorectal neoplasia (1B).
20. We recommend against the use of UDCA as
chemoprevention for colorectal cancer in patients with
ulcerative colitis and PSC (1B).
21. We recommend that patients with IBD and
PSC should be treated according to guidelines for IBD
Gallbladder Disease and PSC
Stones. Gallbladder abnormalities are frequently ob-
served in PSC patients. In an early study of 121 cases,
41% had one or more gallbladder abnormalities, includ-
ing gallstones (26%), probable PSC involving the gall-
bladder (15%), and benign or malignant neoplasms
(4%).105Although gallstones as a cause of SSC must be
considered, PSC patients seem to be predisposed to gall-
stone disease, including both the gallbladder and the bil-
iary tract. In a review of the records of 286 PSC patients,
gallstones (confirmed by one or more radiological modal-
were diagnosed at a mean of 5 years (?6.4 years) after the
of IBD did not influence the frequency of gallstones.
Polyps and Cancer. In the above study of 286 pa-
tients with PSC, a gallbladder mass lesion (mean size
21?9 mm) was found in 18 (6%) cases.17Among these,
10 (56%) proved to be a gallbladder carcinoma. Nine
patients without a mass lesion, had epithelial dysplasia of
the gallbladder on histological examination. A corre-
sponding high risk of cancer associated with a gallbladder
mass lesion was found in a study of 102 PSC patients
(13.7%) had a gallbladder mass lesion, and eight (57%)
among these were adenocarcinomas. Furthermore, inves-
tigation of 72 gallbladders from PSC patients (6 obtained
prior to and 66 removed at liver transplantation) revealed
low-grade or high-grade dysplasia in 27 (37%) and ade-
associated with gallbladder polyps in this condition is a
reason to follow the patients with regular US investiga-
tions and to recommend cholecystectomy, even if a mass
should be done annually.
22. We recommend annual ultrasound to detect
mass lesions in the gallbladder (1C).
23. In patients with gallbladder mass lesions, we
recommend cholecystectomy as treatment regardless of
lesion size, if the underlying liver disease permits (1C).
Diagnosis of CCA. Patients with PSC are at risk for
developing superimposed cholangiocarcinoma.10,92,108–113
in recent studies.109,110Risk factors for the development of
CCA published in the literature include an elevated serum
ative colitis with colorectal cancer or dysplasia, the duration
of inflammatory bowel disease, and polymorphisms of the
NKG2D gene (encoding a protein involved in NK cell ac-
not be a risk factor for the development of CCA in contra-
distinction to the risk factor for neoplasia in inflammatory
bowel disease.113In fact, in approximately half of patients
with PSC plus CCA, the malignancy is detected at the time
of diagnosis or within the first year suggesting the superim-
posed CCA may have elicited the symptoms leading to the
patients with deterioration in their constitutional perfor-
mance status or liver biochemical-related parameters should
undergo an evaluation for CCA.
The distinction between a benign dominant stricture
and CCA in a PSC patient is challenging. The best stud-
ied CCA associated biomarker in PSC is the serum CA
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2010 CHAPMAN ET AL.667
19-9. However, the CA 19-9 can be elevated in patients
with bacterial cholangitis, and is virtually undetectable in
7% of the normal population who are negative for the
Lewis antigen.118Patients negative for the Lewis antigen,
therefore, will not have an elevated serum CA19-9 level
value for CCA in PSC has been investigated in several
U/mL) the sensitivity and specificity is 79% and 98%,
respectively.120Thus, the determination of a serum CA
19-9 value in symptomatic patients has value in assessing
the likelihood the patient has CCA. All these studies ex-
patients with suspected CCA; no study has demonstrated
value for the serum CA 19-9 test as a screening modality
in asymptomatic PSC populations.
These cholangiocarcinomas mimic the stricturing pro-
cess of PSC making the diagnosis extremely difficult. The
demonstration of a mass lesion with characteristic imag-
ing features (i.e., malignant appearing mass with delayed
venous phase enhancement) has virtually a 100% sensi-
tivity and specificity for the diagnosis of CCA.122How-
ever, mass lesions are unusual in early stage CCA, and in
a large study ultrasonography, computerized tomography
and magnetic resonance imaging studies yielded an over-
all limited positive predictive value of 48%, 38%, and
40%, respectively, in identifying CCA in patients with
Other than identifying ductal obstruction, direct
cholangiography by ERCP and indirect cholangiography
by magnetic resonance studies have net overall positive
predictive values for CCA of only 23% and 21%, respec-
tively.122The ability to more directly visualize the bile
duct via cholangioscopy and/or intraductal US are prom-
ising technologies for the diagnosis of CCA in PSC,5,124
but have not yet been tested in large patient populations
nor validated by multiple studies.
Unfortunately, conventional brush cytology ob-
tained via endoscopic retrograde or percutaneous
cholangiography has a limited sensitivity albeit excel-
lent specificity for the diagnosis of CCA in PSC. The
sensitivity in the literature ranges from 18%-40% in
large studies.11,122,123,125,126The specificity for a posi-
tive conventional cytology is virtually 100%. Recently,
the demonstration of polysomy (duplication of two or
more chromosomes) in ?5 cells by fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH) of cytologic specimens has dem-
onstrated a sensitivity of 41% and a specificity of 98%
for the diagnosis of CCA in PSC patients125; a positive
FISH test doubled the sensitivity of conventional cy-
tology in this report. In a small study of 61 patients, the
finding of high grade dysplasia was highly sensitive for
the diagnosis of CCA (sensitivity of 73% and specific-
ity of 95%).126The FISH-based and dysplasia-based
approaches have yet to be validated by additional cen-
The role of [18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG)
positron emission tomography (PET) in the diagnosis of
CCA in PSC remains controversial.123,127,128It should be
noted that inflammation can yield false positive PET
scans a potential pitfall in PSC.
Many physicians desire guidelines for the surveil-
lance of CCA in PSC patients. Surveillance strategies
are predicated on the availability of highly sensitive
diagnostic and cost-effective modalities, effective treat-
ment strategies for patients found to have the disease,
and patient acceptance of the diagnostic tests and treat-
ment. Once the above criteria have been met, longitu-
dinal studies must demonstrate a decrease in death
from the disease. Inadequate information exists regard-
ing the utility of screening for CCA in PSC; in the
screen patients with an imaging study plus a CA 19-9 at
In summary, the diagnosis of CCA in the setting of
PSC remains challenging if a mass lesion is not identi-
fied by imaging studies. The most definitive findings
for CCA are a mass lesion with characteristic features of
CCA and a positive cytology or biopsy. A reasonable
algorithm for the diagnosis of CCA in PSC is depicted
in Fig. 2.
Therapy of CCA. Therapy for cholangiocarcinoma in
the setting of PSC is limited, and confounded by several
clinical parameters. First, patients often have non reme-
diable cholestasis with jaundice and/or advanced fibrotic
stage liver disease with portal hypertension; both condi-
tions impair surgical and chemotherapeutic options. Sec-
ond, CCA appears to arise from a field defect within the
biliary tree and is therefore often multifocal along the
biliary tree limiting the utility of surgical resections.
Third, there is no established medical therapy for cholan-
giocarcinoma.129Fourth, given the difficulty in making
the diagnosis of CCA in this patient population, many
patients present with advanced stage cancer. Finally, re-
gional extension and peritoneal metastasis are common,
yet difficult to identify noninvasively, making it difficult
to reliably stage the disease.
Survival following the diagnosis of CCA in the set-
ting of PSC is dismal with 2-year survival being unusu-
al.130Even for surgically resected patients, the 3-year
survival rate is ?20%.131,132Recently, liver transplan-
tation has been advocated for the treatment of early
stage CCA (unicentric mass lesion ?3 cm in radial
diameter and no intrahepatic or extrahepatic metasta-
668 CHAPMAN ET AL.HEPATOLOGY, February 2010
sis) following neoadjuvant therapy with external beam
capcitibene.133Overall 5-year survival rates are 70%
for highly selected patients with perihilar CCA under-
going this complex treatment approach.134It should be
noted that although endoscopic US-guided fine aspi-
rates of hilar structures have been suggested as a diag-
nostic approach for CCA,135a biopsy of the primary
tumor by this technique excludes patients from this
protocol, although it is useful for assessing potential
lymph node metastasis.136This aggressive, multimo-
dality treatment approach has yet to be applied outside
of a single center, and, therefore, whether this protocol
can be generalized is unclear.
Photodynamic therapy can be palliative for patients
with CCA, but its utility in PSC patients has not been
reported.137–139External beam radiation therapy is
fraught with collateral damage to the bile ducts in PSC
patients, and its therapeutic efficacy in CCA has never
been examined in a randomized trial versus stenting
alone; similar comments apply to current medical ther-
apy. Thus, evidence-based therapy for cholangiocarci-
noma in patients with PSC is lacking.
24. We recommend evaluation for CCA in patients
with deterioration of their constitutional performance
status or liver biochemical-related parameters (1B).
25. In patients with CCA and the absence of cir-
rhosis, we suggest that surgical resection may be per-
26. In patients with early stage CCA not amenable to
surgical resection, we recommend that such patients be
considered for liver transplantation following neoadju-
vant therapy by experienced transplant centers (1B).
Natural History and Prognostic Models
approximately 65% in a population based study,12but
large individual variations exist.5,140Because no effective
treatment is available outside liver transplantation, prog-
nostic models have been developed to predict the out-
come. Although the classical Child-Pugh Class scoring
system is informative in regards to outcome,141the most
recent iteration of the Mayo score suggested that this
model provides more valid survival information than the
Child-Pugh Class, particularly in patients early in the
Fig. 2. Diagnostic evaluation of a dominant stricture suspicious for CCA. In patients with clinical suspicion of hilar CCA (e.g., dominant stricture),
CA 19-9 serum analysis, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, and conventional as well as FISH analysis (where available) of
endoscopically obtained biliary brushings of suspicious areas should be performed. In addition, a gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) of the liver should also be obtained. In cases in which a dominant stricture is identified, CA 19-9 serum levels are ?129 U/mL, or
biopsy/cytology are positive for carcinoma and/or polysomy, or a mass lesion and/or vascular encasement are identified, management for CCA can
be initiated. Bacterial cholangitis should be absent to interpret the serum CA 19-9 level. With a negative MRI scan, CA 19-9 value ? 130 U/mL,
and negative cytology, a dominant stricture can be assumed to be benign. If the MRI scan is negative but there is significant concern for CCA (e.g.,
cytology suspicious for adenocarcinoma), the MRI, serum CA 19-9, and ERC with brushings for cytology (including FISH studies where available)
should be repeated over time. In some centers, a PET scan may be performed if the clinical suspicion for a CCA is high. If “hot spots” are identified,
further management is often directed toward the diagnosis of CCA, although inflammation can result in a false positive PET scan.
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2010CHAPMAN ET AL.669
course of PSC.142This model includes age, bilirubin, se-
prognostic parameters. Using this risk score, patients can
be divided into the low, intermediate, and high-risk
groups. A time-dependent prognostic model for the cal-
culation of short-term survival probability in PSC was
also developed with data from five European centers. Bil-
irubin, albumin, and age at diagnosis of PSC were iden-
tified as independent prognostic factors in multivariate
analysis.143A different approach has been used by Dutch
investigators based on the earliest available cholangio-
graphic findings. A combination of age and of intrahe-
patic and extrahepatic scoring obtained at ERC, as a
modification from a previous model was strongly predic-
tive of survival.144,145Cholangiographic data were also
included in a recent study of 273 German patients with
PSC.5Also, a recent study indicates that dominant stric-
tures reduce survival free of liver transplantation further
veloping a prognostic model.146It should be noted that
although prognostic models are useful in predicting out-
come in patient cohorts, their ability to precisely predict
outcomes in an individual patient may be more limited.
27. In patients with PSC, we recommend against
the use of prognostic models for predicting clinical
outcomes in an individual patient as no consensus
exists regarding the optimal model (1B).
Specific Medical Therapy
Effective medical management of PSC has been hin-
dered by uncertainty regarding the pathogenesis of the
disease and the factors responsible for its progression.
diseases have been tested in PSC with a limited degree of
Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is a hydrophilic, dihy-
droxy bile acid which is an effective treatment of primary
biliary cirrhosis (PBC). UDCA has, therefore, also been in-
Small pilot trials of UDCA demonstrated biochemical and
histological improvement in PSC patients using doses of
10–15 mg/kg/day.11,148–150A more substantial trial was
in a double blind placebo controlled trial of 13-15mg/kg of
UDCA for 2-5 years. The results indicated improvement in
no difference in treatment failure (defined as death; liver
transplantation; histologic progression by two stages (of
ascites, or encephalopathy; or quadrupling of the serum bil-
irubin level for at least three months.151Higher doses of
UDCA were then studied on the grounds that larger doses
might be necessary to provide sufficient enrichment of the
bile acid pool in the context of cholestasis, and that these
doses might also enhance a potential immunomodulatory
effect of the drug.
The Scandinavian UDCA trial in a group of 219 pa-
tients with PSC using a dose of 17-23 mg/kg/day for 5
years demonstrated a trend toward increased survival in
the UDCA treated group when compared with place-
bo,152but despite the relatively large number of patients
duce a statistically significant result. Recently, a multi-
center study using high doses of 28-30 mg/kg/day of
UDCA in 150 patients with PSC over 5 years has been
aborted because of an enhanced risk in the UDCA treat-
ment group for death or liver transplantation and serious
adverse events particularly in advanced disease whereas
biochemical features improved in the whole UDCA
group.153Thus, the role for UDCA in slowing the pro-
gression of PSC-related liver disease is as yet unclear and
indeed, high dose UDCA may be harmful.102
Immunosuppressive and Other Agents. Treatment
with corticosteroids and other immunosuppressant agents
have not demonstrated any improvement in disease activity
or in the outcome of PSC. Small randomized, placebo-con-
azathioprine, cyclosporin, methotrexate, mycophenolate,
and tacrolimus, agents with TNF? antagonizing effects like
pentoxifyllin, etanercept and anti-TNF monocolonal anti-
or pirfenidone.154There is no evidence that any of these
drugs are efficacious and, therefore, none can be recom-
a role in the context of a PSC/AIH overlap syndrome, be-
cause pediatric patients and those with evidence of a PSC/
AIH overlap syndrome are more likely to respond to
in adults also suggested a beneficial role of corticosteroids in
a subgroup with AIH overlap features.156Corticosteroids
may also be indicated as a therapeutic trial following thor-
ough evaluation of suspected immunoglobulin G4-associ-
28. In adult patients with PSC, we recommend
against the use of UDCA as medical therapy (1A).
29. In adult patients with PSC and overlap syn-
drome, we recommend the use of corticosteroids and
other immunosuppressive agents for medical therapy
670 CHAPMAN ET AL. HEPATOLOGY, February 2010
Indications. Liver transplant indications for patients
with PSC do not differ substantially from those with
complications of portal hypertension, impaired quality of
of America, organ allocation by the Model for End-Stage
Liver Disease score is etiology independent.158,159Hepa-
tocellular carcinoma occurs in patients with PSC with
cirrhosis,160,161and the prioritization of these patients for
liver transplant is the same as for other patients with hep-
for patients with PSC include intractable pruritus, recur-
rent bacterial cholangitis, and cholangiocarcinoma. PSC
patients with limited stage cholangiocarcinoma can ben-
efit from liver transplantation with careful selection and
protocol-driven application of neoadjuvant therapy.133
Currently, patients with these unique indications may be
listed for liver transplantation in the United States via a
regional review board appeal process established by the
Liver and Intestinal Committee of UNOS (United Net-
work for Organ Sharing). An appealed MELD score may
be granted via this process to help prioritize the PSC pa-
tient with these complications for liver transplantation.
cessful with five-year survival rates of approximately 85%
in patients receiving deceased donor allografts162,163;
long-term survival rates following live donor liver trans-
plantation for PSC patients are unknown but should be
similar to the deceased donor allograft survival rates. The
tomy with or without an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis
does not affect liver transplant outcome.165PSC liver
transplant recipients may be more prone to acute and
chronic cellular rejection162,166; however, in the era of
usually manageable, and chronic rejection is increasingly
Disease recurrence occurs in 20%-25%, after 5-10
years in patients, from the transplant procedure.162,167,168
Other risk factors for non-anastomotic biliary strictures
biliary strictures include donation after cardiac death,
prolonged graft ischemic time, ABO blood group incom-
patibility, hepatic artery thrombosis, CMV infection,
chronic rejection, and early onset biliary strictures occur-
ring within 3 months of the transplant procedure.169Re-
ported risk factors for recurrent PSC following liver
transplantation include active IBD with a need for corti-
costeroid therapy, presence of an intact colon, male sex,
presence of CCA prior to liver transplantation, and his-
tory of acute cellular rejection.167,170,171The impact of
recurrent PSC on graft survival remains incompletely de-
lineated and controversial; studies either report no ef-
fect,171or perhaps diminished graft survival.167,172There
is no established medical therapy for recurrent PSC fol-
lowing liver transplantation.
Management of PSC patients following liver trans-
plantation is similar to management of other liver trans-
plant recipients except for two noted exceptions. PSC
patients have an increased metabolic bone disease preva-
lence which should be managed as discussed elsewhere in
this practice guideline.173Approximately 60% of patients
with IBD before transplantation will experience disease
activity despite their immunosuppressive regiment.83
Management of IBD after transplant has not been well
studied and the risk benefit of employing biologic agents
in this setting unclear. The rate of proctocolectomy for
intractable IBD may be increased in PSC patients follow-
ing liver transplantation.174Patients with PSC plus ulcer-
ative colitis are at increased risk for developing colonic
neoplasia which persists after transplantation.162,175,176
PSC patients with UC should undergo annual surveil-
lance with colonoscopy.
30. In patients with advanced liver disease, we
recommend the use of liver transplantation as a suc-
cessful treatment modality (1A).
31. We recommend excluding alternate causes of
biliary strictures in the posttransplant setting before
making a diagnosis of recurrent PSC (1B).
Fertility and Pregnancy in PSC
Information on pregnancies in PSC is limited to a few
pain during pregnancy may occur in PSC patients. The
pruritus may be so intense as to warrant early delivery via
induction. No serious deterioration of liver function dur-
ing or after pregnancy has been reported, and outcome
has been satisfactory for both patients and children.178In
a case report, a patient developed a dominant bile duct
stricture that required stenting during an ERCP carried
out 3 days postpartum.177Regarding the effect of preg-
nancy on the disease course of IBD in general, a large
follow-up study of 580 pregnancies in 173 patients with
UC and 93 CD patients (177 pregnancies occurring after
diagnosis of IBD) concluded that pregnancy did not in-
fluence disease phenotype or resection rates, but was as-
sociated with a reduction in number of flares in the years
HEPATOLOGY, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2010CHAPMAN ET AL. 671
PSC patients undergoing pregnancy should be closely
monitored with regular blood tests and clinical assess-
ment.177In case of suspected bile duct obstruction, ultra-
sonography can be safely carried out. One should be
reluctant to do MRC during the first trimester, but can
perform this study in the second and third trimesters.
ERC should be reserved for cases in which a need for
endoscopic therapy is anticipated. Treatment of intrahe-
has been promising, and no adverse effects in patients or
exists regarding the efficacy of UDCA on the pruritus of
pregnant PSC patients.
32. In female patients of childbearing age without
portal hypertension, we recommend that pregnancy
can be completed safely under close medical supervi-
tality in children, accounting for approximately 2% (223 of
United States between 1988 and 2008.182The five largest
per year).33,34,36,183,184These single-center reports all derive
from transplant affiliated programs, so one must assume a
bias toward more severe cases. This is especially relevant
when considering issues related to prognosis. Development
ment of PSC in children is especially problematic given this
data derived from experiences with adult patients, although
An urgent need exists for prospective multi-centered studies
of PSC in children.
A number of lines of evidence suggest that PSC in
children is different and not just an earlier stage in the
disease process. Firstly, some inherited diseases and im-
munologic defects may produce a clinical picture like
PSC. These entities usually present clinically during
childhood and may have an expanded spectrum of dis-
ease, which includes milder variants that when unrecog-
nized are labeled as PSC. For example, mild to moderate
defects in the ABCB4 (MDR3) gene are a likely cause of a
number of cases of small duct PSC in children.185,186Sec-
ondly, overlap syndrome of autoimmune hepatitis and
PSC appears to be significantly more common in chil-
dren. In some centers evaluation of the biliary system is a
standard part of the evaluation of all children with auto-
immune hepatitis and those with biliary disease are diag-
nosed as having autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis
(ASC). In these centers ASC is felt to be part of a broad
spectrum of autoimmune liver disease in children.36The
are not well defined nor prospectively correlated with
clinical course and/or therapeutic response. Next many
reports show that children with PSC have higher serum
ALT/AST and gamma glutamyltranspeptidase (?GTP)
levels than their adult counterparts. This has been inter-
many of the important and potentially life-threatening
sequelae of PSC, such as cholangiocarcinoma, are rarely
observed in childhood.187Thus many of the clinical ap-
proaches taken in adults related to these issues are of less
importance in children.
Diagnosis. Measurement of ?GTP is important in
elevated levels of alkaline phosphatase associated with
bone growth.188Serum aminotransferase elevations may
be more significantly elevated in children.189MRC is an
often circumvents the need for ERC.190Liver biopsy may
be of greater relevance in children, especially as it pertains
histologic features of autoimmune or immune-mediated
disease.191Universal recommendations for measurement
Manifestations of PSC and Their Management.
ment should be similar to that recommended for adults, al-
though the risk for cholangiocarcinoma is probably less. Bile
ment of pruritus related to cholestatic liver disease in children
approaches to the management of portal hypertension in chil-
consensus opinions regarding adults.194Hepatic osteodystro-
phy can occur in children with chronic cholestasis, although
approaches to monitoring and management are unclear. Peri-
or biochemical evidence of cholestasis are warranted. Calcium
mented deficiencies. Vitamin E and A status should also be
appropriate supplementation. Bisphosphonate therapy in chil-
672CHAPMAN ET AL. HEPATOLOGY, February 2010
routine monitoring bone mineral density in children with
Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory bowel
reports of pediatric PSC.34,36,183,184More than two thirds
of the cases were ulcerative colitis. Prevalence was higher
in centers where surveillance colonoscopy was performed
Detailed description of the course of the IBD in these
children relative to children without PSC is not available
therefore it is difficult to make evidence-based recom-
mendations regarding the management of IBD in the
setting of pediatric PSC. It seems reasonable to consider
diagnostic full colonoscopy in children who are newly
diagnosed with PSC and to have a low threshold for per-
forming this procedure in children who have symptoms
consistent with IBD (e.g., diarrhea, growth failure, ane-
mia, etc.). Given the younger age of these patients and
their reduced risk of colon cancer, it is more difficult to
emphatically recommend on-going surveillance colonos-
copy in children, especially in those younger than 16. In
evidence of liver disease a ?GTP level should be included
in the testing.
Gallbladder Disease and Cholangiocarcinoma.
Mass lesions of the gallbladder are rarely reported in chil-
dren, thus annual US imaging of the gallbladder may not
be warranted. Similarly CCA is uncommon in child-
hood.187Cross-sectional imaging and measurement of
CA 19-9 might be useful in children with stricturing dis-
tation. Routine surveillance for CCA in children cannot
be recommended based on evidence.
Natural History. Detailed prognostic models for the
course of PSC in children are not available and it is un-
likely that one could apply adult models to children. Out
of 185 children in the five largest case-series, 39 were
reported to require liver transplantation. Certainly these
these centers are active liver transplant programs. Com-
mon sense suggests that the prognosis is worse in children
who present with evidence of cirrhosis or decompensated
disease.34The impact on natural history of medical ther-
apy or the presence of overlap syndrome is not clear from
Specific Medical Therapy. In light of the potential
differences between pediatric and adult disease, it is diffi-
cult to make firm recommendations about the use of
should be exercised in using UDCA at a dose greater than
20 mg/kg/day. Full disclosure of adult experiences with
UDCA to the families of children with PSC is recom-
mended before employing this therapy. Overlapping au-
toimmune disease has been reported to be more common
in children, however the exact diagnostic criteria that in-
dicate the use of corticosteroids and/or immunosuppres-
is reasonable to attempt a trial of corticosteroids with or
without azathioprine if liver histology shows interface
hepatitis, IgG levels are elevated, and autoimmune mark-
ers are present.
Liver Transplantation. As in adults, liver transplan-
tation is a successful treatment modality for advanced
liver disease.196Recurrent PSC and/or AIH have been
reported after successful liver transplantation for PSC.
Heightened monitoring for this phenomenon and for re-
jection is warranted in children. Enhanced surveillance
for colon cancer via annual colonoscopy in adolescents
with PSC and IBD is a reasonable approach.
33. In children liver biopsy should be used to di-
agnose overlap syndrome with PSC and autoimmune
34. In children with overlap syndrome, we recom-
mend the use of immunosuppressive agents for medical
35. We recommend against the use of screening
and surveillance procedures for detecting biliary tract
cancer in children with PSC; approaches to colorectal
cancer screening in children with IBD should not be
influenced by the diagnosis of PSC (1B).
36. In children with end-stage liver disease from
PSC, we recommend the use of liver transplantation
as effective therapy (1A).
mittee of the American Association for the Study of Liver
Diseases. This committee provided extensive peer review
of the manuscript. Members of the Practice Guidelines
Committee include Jayant A. Talwalkar, M.D., M.P.H.
(Chair); Anna Mae Diehl, M.D. (Board Liaison); Jeffrey
H. Albrecht, M.D.; Amanda DeVoss, M.M.S., P.A.-C.;
Jose ´ Franco, M.D.; Stephen A. Harrison, M.D.; Kevin
Korenblat, M.D.; Simon C. Ling, M.B.Ch.B.; Lawrence
U. Liu, M.D.; Paul Martin, M.D.; Kim M. Olthoff,
M.D.; Robert S. O’Shea, M.D.; Nancy Reau, M.D.; Ad-
nan Said, M.D.; Margaret C. Shuhart, M.D., M.S.; and
Kerry N. Whitt, M.D.
This practice guideline was pro-
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