Many Patients With Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis and Increased Serum Levels of Carbohydrate Antigen 19-9 Do Not Have Cholangiocarcinoma

Emmanouil Sinakos, Amy K. Saenger, Jill Keach, W. Ray Kim, Keith D. Lindor

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71 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) have an increased incidence of cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). Carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) is the main serum marker used to diagnose CCA, although increased levels of CA 19-9 are also associated with other hepatic complications. We evaluated the long-term outcomes in patients with PSC and significant increases in levels of CA 19-9. Methods: We analyzed data from all Mayo Clinic patients with PSC and serum levels of CA 19-9 greater than 129 U/mL from 2000-2010 (n = 73). We reviewed patients' records for CCA diagnosis, other malignancies, recurrent bacterial cholangitis, and persistent cholestasis. Results: Thirty-seven percent of patients reviewed had no evidence of CCA after a median follow-up time of 30 months. The initial levels of CA 19-9 from patients without CCA were significantly lower than those from patients with CCA (286 vs 895 U/mL, P < .0001). At the start of the study, patients without CCA were more likely to have cirrhosis, compared with patients with CCA (48% vs 24%, P = .03), and lower levels of bilirubin (2 vs 6.8 mg/dL, P = .003), compared with patients with CCA. No factors known to affect CA 19-9 levels were identified in 33% of patients without CCA; endoscopic treatment and recurrent bacterial cholangitis were associated with levels of CA 19-9 in 26% and 22% of these patients, respectively. Conclusions: Thirty-seven percent of patients with PSC who have serum levels of CA 19-9 greater than 129 U/mL do not have CCA. Additional studies should be performed to determine the outcomes of these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-439.e1
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011



  • Bile Duct
  • Biliary Tract Cancer
  • Cancer Diagnostic
  • Liver Disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology

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