Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

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What is the treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis?

The only "cure" for primary biliary cirrhosis is liver transplant, but it is only considered as a treatment option if other less aggressive treatments have failed and the patient develops liver failure.

Ursodiol (Actigal) or ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is the first line treatment for PBC. It helps the liver transport bile into the gallbladder and intestine, in an attempt to prevent cholestasis.

Depending upon the severity of the disease, immune suppression medications may be prescribed, including methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), cyclosporine and prednisone.

Itching may be intense and difficult to control. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may be helpful but other drugs may be considered including cholestyramine (Questran, Questran Light), which helps bind bile and decrease the itching associated with elevated bilirubin levels in the blood.

Complications of PBC will need to be cared for. These include cirrhosis, portal hypertension, gastrointestinal bleeding, osteoporosis, and vitamin deficiencies.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015
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