Three patients with symptomatic, noncirrhotic primary biliary cirrhosis who had no evidence of esophageal varices on esophagogastroduodenoscopy and who were treated with ursodeoxycholic acid, 15 mg · kg-1 · day-1, for a period of 1-2 years are reported. Initially, all three patients showed improvement in symptoms of fatigue and pruritus, and there was marked improvement or normalization in serum levels of bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, and alanine aminotransferase. However, after 1-2 years, all three patients progressed histologically to cirrhosis on follow-up liver biopsy, and all had esophageal variceal bleeding documented by esophagogastroduodenoscopy. These three patients represent examples of ursodeoxycholic acid treatment failure despite improvements in symptoms and biochemical liver test results.
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