Liver and inflammatory bowel disease

Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2009 May;33(5):370-81. doi: 10.1016/j.gcb.2009.02.037. Epub 2009 Apr 24.


Liver disease is exceptional in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The most common manifestation, sclerosing cholangitis, characterized by inflammation and fibrosis of the intra- and\or extrahepatic bile ducts, is unusual in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Conversely, inflammatory bowel disease (mainly chronic ulcerative colitis) is not infrequent in patients with sclerosing cholangitis. Gallstone disease, portal vein thrombosis, and hepatic abscesses are complications directly related to inflammatory bowel disease. Drugs prescribed for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease can be the cause of rare but potentially serious hepatic manifestations which must be recognized and detected early. Recent studies have demonstrated the role of purine analogues in the development of nodular regenerative hyperplasia. Because of the poor prognosis, patients taking purine analogues should be monitored regularly to search for inaugural signs such as an elevation of serum alkaline phosphatase or low platelet counts (which may not necessarily reach thrombopenia). The risk of methotrexate-induced fibrosis is exceptional in inflammatory bowel disease. Patients should be monitored with non-invasive tests to recognize the development of fibrosis. Finally, because of the risk of viral reactivation, patients should be screened for hepatitis B virus surface antigen before introducing infliximab; chronic carriers should be given preventive treatment with nucleoside or nucleotide analogues.

MeSH terms

  • Bile Duct Diseases / etiology
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy
  • Liver / blood supply
  • Liver Diseases / etiology*
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology