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SOUTH DENVER GASTROENTEROLOGY, P.C.

Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

What is Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis?

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic disease that slowly damages the bile ducts. Bile is a fluid that is created in the liver that helps aids with digestion and helps the body to absorb certain vitamins. It can also help your body to rid itself of toxins. In patients with PSC, the bile ducts are blocked by inflammation and scarring or fibrosis. This causes bile to build up in the liver where it gradually damages liver cells, causing cirrhosis or fibrosis of the liver. 

While it is not known what causes PSC, different factors such as viruses, bacteria, genes or immune system problems may play a part. This condition can occur at any age but is more common in men than women. Many people with PSC also have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

This disease usually develops slowly, which means that an individual may have it for some time before experiencing symptoms. Some common signs include:

  • Itchy skin.
  • Fatigue.
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Abdominal pain.

How is Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing the symptoms associated with SCD or your doctor suspects this disease, he or she will take a sample of your blood to check your liver enzymes, as abnormal levels may be a sign of PSC. To confirm a diagnosis, a test called a cholangiography is needed to allow your doctor a better look at your bile ducts. There are different forms of cholangiography, including magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Your doctor will choose the most appropriate test in your case for an accurate diagnosis.

Everyone was great from scheduling and people I had contact with before, during and after the procedure.

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The front staff was immediately attentive as soon as I walked in. The nurses and PAs were professional and very nice, and the doctors were even better. The procedure went smoothly and could not have gone better. Of course, having positive lab results makes it easier to post a glowing report but I got the impression that if I had been diagnosed differently, they would have taken care of me with the same kindness and dedication.

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Treatment Options for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

Treatment for primary sclerosing cholangitis mainly focuses on avoiding complications and monitoring liver damage. Your doctor may include management of your symptoms in your treatment plan, which may include:

Nutrition Support

This condition can make it hard for your body to absorb certain vitamins. Because of this, your doctor may recommend vitamin supplements to help you receive all of the nutrients you need.

Treatment for Itching

There are many different options for addressing itchiness associated with PSC, including medications that bind to bile acids, certain antibiotics, antihistamines, opioid antagonists and ursodeoxycholic acid.

Treatment for Infections

Bacterial infections may occur if bile is backed up due to narrowed or blocked ducts. To prevent these infections, your doctor may prescribe repeated courses of antibiotics.

Treatment for Bile Duct Blockages

As this disease progresses, blockages may occur in the bile ducts. Bile duct blockages may be addressed through procedures such as balloon dilation or stent placement.

Liver Transplant

In situations where the liver has failed, a liver transplant is an option. During this procedure, the surgeon will remove your diseased liver and replace it with a healthy donor liver.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!


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