Secondary sclerosing cholangitis

Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 May;6(5):287-95. doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2009.46.


Secondary sclerosing cholangitis (SSC) is a chronic cholestatic biliary disease, characterized by inflammation, obliterative fibrosis of the bile ducts, stricture formation and progressive destruction of the biliary tree that leads to biliary cirrhosis. SSC is thought to develop as a consequence of known injuries or secondary to pathological processes of the biliary tree. The most frequently described causes of SSC are longstanding biliary obstruction, surgical trauma to the bile duct and ischemic injury to the biliary tree in liver allografts. SSC may also follow intra-arterial chemotherapy. Sclerosing cholangitis in critically ill patients is a largely unrecognized new form of SSC, and is associated with rapid progression to liver cirrhosis. The mechanisms leading to cholangiopathy in critically ill patients are widely unknown; however, the available clinical data indicate that ischemic injury to the intrahepatic biliary tree may be one of the earliest events in the development of this severe form of sclerosing cholangitis. Therapeutic options for most forms of SSC are limited, and patients with SSC who do not undergo transplantation have significantly reduced survival compared with patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Sclerosing cholangitis in critically ill patients, in particular, is associated with rapid disease progression and poor outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing* / diagnosis
  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing* / etiology
  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Prognosis