Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a rare, chronic, progressive inflammatory disease which slowly destroys the small bile ducts in the liver, and which eventually can cause the liver to stop functioning properly. It is far more common in women than men and is thought to be an autoimmune disease. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our liver specialists understand the complexity of PBC and its potential complications and offer customized treatment to relieve symptoms and slow its progression. As a leading center for liver transplantation, we have exceptional experience offering this treatment to people with advanced PBC.
Your Expert PBC Team
Your healthcare team includes specialists who diagnose and treat PBC, including hepatologists (liver doctors), gastroenterologists, interventional endoscopists, liver surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, registered dietitians, social workers, and others. Because people with PBC may also have certain metabolic and autoimmune disorders—such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, CREST syndrome (an immune disorder that is a type of scleroderma, a thickening of connective tissue), and Raynaud's disease (a condition that affects small blood vessels in the hands and feet in response to cold or emotional stress) — your team may also include doctors to treat those conditions, too. All of the healthcare professionals you may need are available to you at one medical center.
How We Treat Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
While there is no cure for primary biliary cirrhosis, NewYork-Presbyterian provides treatments designed to slow the progression of your disease, relieve your symptoms, and prevent complications so you can live a longer, more comfortable life.
- Medications. Doctors may prescribe the drug ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), a naturally occurring bile acid, to increase the flow of bile and reduce inflammation of the bile ducts. If you do not respond to UDCA, your doctor may add another medication known as obeticholic acid.
- Nutritional supplements. People with PBC are at risk for nutritional deficiencies due to poor absorption of nutrients. You may receive vitamin and mineral supplements to replace missing nutrients. Your doctors will also keep an eye on your bone density because people with PBC are also at risk for osteoporosis.
- Evaluation for osteoporosis. Individuals with PBC are at risk for osteoporosis. We utilize state of the art medical therapies to treat and prevent this complication.
Liver Transplantation for Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
If your PBC becomes so advanced that it cannot be effectively managed with other treatments, you may need a liver transplant. At NewYork-Presbyterian, you are ten times more likely to receive a liver transplant than at other hospitals in the region, with an average wait time of just nine months. Our surgeons have performed more than 2,000 liver transplants, with outcomes that meet or surpass national averages. They use a variety of liver transplant approaches, including living donor liver transplantation, to extend the limits of organ transplantation and provide the greatest number of transplants possible.
Treatment for Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Complications
Portal hypertension (increased pressure in the portal vein—the major vein transporting blood from your stomach to your liver and other digestive organs) is a serious complication of PBC. Some people develop varices (enlarged veins in the stomach or esophagus). At NewYork-Presbyterian, your team includes specially trained doctors who can treat these complications. We offer medications (beta-blockers), banding (tying off of varices), and surgical or radiologic “shunts” to divert blood flow from and reduce pressure in the portal vein.