Primary biliary cirrhosis : an epidemiological and clinical study based on patients from northern Sweden

Sammanfattning: Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic cholestatic liver disease, which primarily affects middle-aged women. The liver histology is characterized by inflammation and destruction of the intrahepatic bile ducts as well as a high frequency of granuloma. Although the etiology is unknown, the occurrence of associated multiorganic abnormalities such as Sjogren's syndrome, scleroderma, rheumatic disorders and thyroid gland diseases have been cited as evidence favouring an autoimmune background.Addison and Gull in 1851 described the first patient with jaundice and xanthomatosis. PBC was first mentioned in 1876 as an entity by Hanot. PBC was considered to be a rare disease until in 1973 Sherlock and Scheuer described 100 patients. Since then a greater awareness of the disease combined with a wider use of laboratory screening methods has led to the discovery of an increasing number of patients with PBC.In an epidemiological investigation of PBC in the northern part of Sweden a point prevalence of 151 per 106 was found, which is the highest so far reported, and the mean annual incidence amounted to 13.3 per 106. Asymptomatic PBC was present in more than one third of the patients which is consistent with the finding in other epidemiological investigations and is supposed to explain the higher prevalence of PBC and the better prognosis. Nevertheless 25 patients died during the study period, 14 as a direct consequence of the liver disease. Chronic intrahepatic cholestasis has been reported in sarcoidosis and, moreover, a high frequency of liver granuloma is found. The implication of the present study is that a negative Kveim test in combination with positive mitochondrial antibodies is accurate in differentiating PBC from sarcoidosis. Multisystem involvement is frequently observed in PBC and the present study confirms this. In the prospective investigation of 26 PBC patients 50 % had arthropathy considered to be associated with PBC. Rheumatoid arthritis was found in 5 patients, who all had symptoms of liver disease in addition. Lung function impairment was present in 56% (1 asymptomatic PBC). Most commonly a reduced diffusion capacity was found (36%). Bronchial asthma was present in three patients, and severe lung emphysema in one. Features of Sjogren's syndrome was found in 73% (3 asymptomatic PBC). In 6 patients keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) was evident with the rose bengal test demonstrating corneal staining and a Schirmer test of less than 5 mm. Radiological findings of sialectasia were demonstrated in 6 patients, of whom 5 had KCS as well. The ultimate treatment in PBC is liver transplantation and to calculate the need for that, good epidemiological surveys are needed, and also indicators of hepatocellular function. The present investigation indicates that determination of the von Willebrand factor could be used for this purpose.