Background & aims: Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) slows the progression of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). However, some UDCA-treated patients escape and progress toward cirrhosis and end-stage disease. This study aimed to assess the incidence of cirrhosis in UDCA-treated patients with PBC and to determine the predictive factors of cirrhosis development under this treatment.
Methods: A Markov model was used to describe the progression toward cirrhosis in 183 UDCA-treated patients with PBC. A total of 254 pairs of liver biopsy specimens collected during 655 patient-years were studied.
Results: The incidence of cirrhosis after 5 years of UDCA treatment was 4%, 12%, and 59% among patients followed-up from stages I, II, and III, respectively. At 10 years, the incidence was 17%, 27%, and 76%, respectively. The median time for developing cirrhosis from stages I, II, and III was 25 years, 20 years, and 4 years, respectively. The independent predictive factors of cirrhosis development were serum bilirubin greater than 17 mumol/L, serum albumin less than 38 g/L, and moderate to severe lymphocytic piecemeal necrosis.
Conclusions: This study provides new data about the time course of PBC under UDCA and constitutes a rationale for the design and evaluation of clinical trials aimed to assess the efficacy of drugs associated with UDCA.