Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

A diagnosis of primary biliary sclerosis (PBC) can change your life. At the Henry Ford Liver Disease Center, we are one of the most experienced hospitals in Michigan when it comes to PBC and other liver diseases.

Our liver disease specialists are dedicated to providing you with team-driven, patient-centered care, empowering you to cope, even thrive, with your diagnosis.

What is primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC)?

Primary biliary cirrhosis is a serious, chronic inflammation of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring) and gradual destruction of the bile ducts, the tubes that transport bile from the liver.

Bile is fluid that helps digest food and clear toxic substances from your body. As the bile ducts sustain more and more damage, those substances build up and damage the liver.

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) causes and risk factors

The exact cause of PBC is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune disease, where the immune system mistakenly starts attacking healthy organs and tissues.

Risk factors for PBC include:

  • Age and gender: It typically affects women between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Infection: Some researchers think bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections could be a possible trigger for PBC.

Symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC)

Primary biliary cirrhosis may not show any symptoms for years, but without treatment symptoms may progress to:

  • Itching
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-colored stools
  • Dry eyes or dry mouth

How is primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) diagnosed?

At the Henry Ford Liver Disease Center, we are a major referral center for patients across the region with cholestatic liver diseases (diseases that interrupt bile flow from the liver), including primary biliary cirrhosis. We offer the latest advanced diagnostic technology to determine not only if you have primary biliary cirrhosis, but how far along it is (known as staging).

Our tools and techniques for diagnosis of PBC include:

  • Blood tests: Tests to check for autoantibodies (immune system proteins that attack healthy tissue) and liver function
  • Sophisticated liver imaging tests: These include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans
  • FibroScan: FibroScan is an innovative, noninvasive way to stage your level of cirrhosis. As the first liver disease center in Michigan to offer FibroScan, we remain one of the most experienced and skilled in its use.
  • Traditional liver biopsy: Removing a sample of liver tissue for analysis with a special needle

Learn more about advanced diagnostic techniques and diagnosis at Henry Ford.

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) treatments at Henry Ford Hospital

There is effective treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis and a number of ways to manage its symptoms and associated medical conditions. At Henry Ford, our large multidisciplinary team skillfully manages all aspects of your care and offers the full range of PBC treatments and the education needed to manage and relieve symptoms. Our treatments include:

Medications: Ursodiol, also known as ursodeoxycholic acid, has been shown to improve liver condition.

Liver transplant: We have the highest one- and three-year survival rates for liver transplant in Michigan.

PBC clinical trials: We are studying several promising new drugs to treat PBC. Learn more about our research and clinical trials at Henry Ford.

Learn more about our liver disease treatments at Henry Ford.

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