The clinicopathologic features and natural history of primary sclerosing cholangitis were reviewed in 53 patients followed at the Yale Liver Center during the past 30 yr. At presentation, the mean age of patients was 46 yr, and the male to female ratio was 1.4:1. Biliary sclerosis was limited to the intrahepatic ductal system in 21% of the patients. Fifty-three percent of the patients had mild disease without portal hypertension at presentation, and 25% had no symptoms attributable to their liver disease. Long-term follow-up was available for 42 patients and averaged 56 mo. Over this period, 16 patients remained mildly symptomatic, and 11 were asymptomatic. Survival was calculated by a Kaplan-Meier life-table analysis and demonstrated that 75% of the patients were alive 9 yr after the diagnosis of primary sclerosing cholangitis. A multivariate analysis of clinical features revealed that hepatomegaly and a serum bilirubin level > 1.5 mg/dl at the onset of disease were independent discriminators of a poor prognosis. Patients referred to this university medical center displayed different clinical characteristics than previously reported in primary sclerosing cholangitis. A higher percentage were older, female, and asymptomatic, and more had disease limited to the intrahepatic ductal system. Survival was also considerably improved in this group of patients and suggests that long-term prognosis for patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis may be considerably better than previously believed.
The natural history and prognostic factors of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) are poorly defined. We reviewed our experience with PSC to determine its natural history and whether any factors on presentation or during follow-up were indicative of a favorable or unfavorable prognosis. Thirty-eight patients were followed up for 75.1 ± 58.7 months; 17 (45%) had a poor outcome, defined as the occurrence of death (11 patients [29%]), variceal hemorrhage, hepatic encephalopathy, or hepatic transplantation. We found the following: (1) the rate of progression of PSC is highly variable; (2) an asymptomatic presentation may not indicate a more favorable outcome or prolonged survival; (3) a serum bilirubin value of four times or more the upper limit of normal, particularly if sustained so as to exclude a reversible cause, is indicative of late-stage disease with a likelihood of subsequent poor outcome and death; and (4) variceal hemorrhage may occur before the terminal stage of the disease.