Abstract Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a chronic inflammatory process affecting the extrahepatic and/or medium to large bile ducts, is not rare in children. It has features suggesting an autoimmune pathogenesis, although the mechanism of tissue damage remains unknown. The clinical presentation of childhood primary sclerosing cholangitis is highly variable and frequently without obvious features of cholestasis. Clinical similarity to autoimmune hepatitis is common. Association with chronic colitis is less common than in adults. Cholangiography is essential for the diagnosis and examination of the medium to large intrahepatic ducts is mandatory, as 40% of children lack extrahepatic duct involvement. Histological findings may help to distinguish childhood PSC from autoimmune hepatitis. In children, sclerosing cholangitis may also develop secondary to other disease processes, notably Langerhans histiocytosis, congenital immunodeficiencies and cystic fibrosis. Neonatal sclerosing cholangitis is chronic inflammatory disease of bile ducts which presents initially with neonatal cholestasis; its pathogenesis remains uncertain and may not be the same as for primary sclerosing cholangitis. Effective treatment modalities for childhood PSC remain undetermined. Liver transplantation is required for children who progress to biliary cirrhosis and hepatic decompensation.
© 1999 Blackwell Science Asia Pty Ltd