We identified and analyzed 45 patients with asymptomatic primary sclerosing cholangitis to better understand the natural history of this disease. Disease progression was monitored at regular intervals for the development of symptoms and physical signs as well as changes in liver biochemistry, cholangiography, and liver histology. During a median follow-up of 75.2 mo, 34 patients (76%) had evidence of disease progression. Fourteen patients (31%) developed liver failure which resulted in death or referral for liver transplantation. For patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, survival curves computed using the Kaplan-Meier method were significantly worse than expected when compared to age-, sex-, and race-specific survival rates for the United States north central population (p < 0.001). These findings indicate that primary sclerosing cholangitis is generally a progressive disease with considerable morbidity and mortality even when detected before the onset of symptoms.
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