North American Indian cirrhosis in children: a review of 30 cases

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2000 Oct;31(4):395-404. doi: 10.1097/00005176-200010000-00013.


Background: North American Indian childhood cirrhosis (NAIC) is a distinct, rapidly evolving form of familial cholestasis found in aboriginal children from northwestern Quebec. This is a retrospective review of the 30 patients treated in Quebec since the discovery of NAIC in 1970.

Methods: The clinical records and histologic samples from 30 patients were reviewed. Extensive metabolic, biochemical, viral, genetic, and radiologic studies were performed in most patients.

Results: Genetic analysis suggests autosomal recessive inheritance and a carrier frequency of 10% in this population. Gene mapping studies showed that the NAIC gene is located on chromosome 16q22. Typically, patients have neonatal cholestatic jaundice (70%) or hepatosplenomegaly (20%) with resolution of clinical jaundice by age 1 year but persistent direct hyperbilirubinemia. Portal hypertension was documented in 29 patients (91%). Variceal bleeding (15 patients, 50%) occurred as early as age 10 months. Surgical portosystemic shunting was performed in 13 of these 15 patients (87%); 4 (31%) rebled after 1 to 5 years. Fourteen patients died (47%). In 10 (71%), liver disease was the cause. Four children died of liver failure before liver transplantation became available. In transplanted livers, no recurrence of NAIC was observed after 1 to 10 years. Recognized infectious, metabolic, toxic, autoimmune, and obstructive causes of cirrhosis have been eliminated. The histologic features of NAIC show early bile duct proliferation and rapid development of portal fibrosis and biliary cirrhosis, suggesting a cholangiopathic phenomenon.

Conclusion: Together with gene mapping studies showing that the NAIC gene is different from those of other familial cholestases, these observations suggest that NAIC is a distinct entity that could be classified as "progressive familial cholangiopathy."

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde
  • Cholestasis / complications
  • Cholestasis / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 16 / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Cirrhosis / genetics*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Pedigree
  • Quebec
  • Retrospective Studies