Fatigue in primary biliary cirrhosis is associated with excessive daytime somnolence

Hepatology. 2006 Jul;44(1):91-8. doi: 10.1002/hep.21230.


A significant proportion of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) suffer from severe fatigue. The aim of this study was to characterize patterns of daytime sleep in patients with PBC (using both objective and subjective assessment approaches) and to study the association between sleep abnormality and fatigue severity. Fatigue severity was assessed in 48 female subjects with PBC (using a disease-specific quality of life instrument (the PBC-40) and a generic fatigue measure (Fatigue Impact Scale [FIS]) as well as 48 case-matched normal controls. All participants also completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS, which assesses daytime hypersomnolence). Objective sleep assessment was performed using accelerometry over 7 days. Global sleep quality assessed by the PSQI was significantly lower in the PBC group compared to controls (P < .0001). ESS scores were significantly higher in patients with PBC than controls (P = .0001), suggesting significantly greater daytime somnolence in the patients with PBC. Objective sleep assessment confirmed that subjects with PBC were sleeping on average almost twice as long as controls during the daytime. Both degree of daytime somnolence (ESS) and actual daytime sleep activity (accelerometry) correlated strongly with fatigue severity in the patient group (r2 = 0.5, P < .0001 and r2 = 0.2, P < .01, respectively). In conclusion, Sleep abnormality, in the form of excessive daytime somnolence, is present in a significant proportion of patients with PBC, with the degree of daytime somnolence correlating strongly with the degree of fatigue. Existing agents effective at reducing daytime somnolence (such as modafinil) hold potential for the treatment of fatigue in PBC.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / complications*
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcolepsy / complications*
  • Narcolepsy / physiopathology
  • Narcolepsy / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires