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Safety and efficacy of long-term nasobiliary drainage to treat intractable pruritus in cholestatic liver disease
  1. V J Appleby,
  2. J M Hutchinson,
  3. M H Davies
  1. Department of Hepatology, St James University Hosptial, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Victoria Appleby, NHS Gastroenterology Bradford Royal Infirmary Duckworth Lane, Bradford BD9 6RJ, UK; victoria.appleby{at}


Introduction Cholestasis related pruritus, secondary to intrahepatic and/or extrahepatic biliary obstruction is a common manifestation in chronic liver disease. Pruritus is difficult to treat, and results are often suboptimal. A stepwise medical approach is usually employed, followed by a trial molecular adsorbents recirculation system in medication resistant cases. Pruritus resulting in reduced quality of life is a variant syndrome eligible for liver transplantation in the setting of preserved synthetic function.

Aim This case series describes the use of long-term (LT) nasobiliary drainage (NBD) in three patients with intractable pruritus. This case series tests the hypothesis that LT-NBD could be successfully used to alleviate cholestasis related pruritus, and prevent or delay the need for liver transplantation.

Method LT-NBD was carried out in three female patients (mean age 43 years) with intractable pruritus secondary to primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) (n=2), and benign recurrent intrahepatic cholestasis (n=1). NBD was carried out through the endoscopic placement of a 6 French Cook Medical nasobiliary catheter into the common bile duct.

Results Symptomatic relief of pruritus was described by all three cases within 24 h of NBD placement. LT-NBD was stopped in the patient with benign recurrent intrahepatic cholestasis after 8 weeks due to complete resolution of pruritus. In one patient with PBC, LT-NBD was undertaken over 12 months, with complete resolution of pruritus. In the second patient with PBC, LT-NBD was carried out over 14 months, with complete resolution of pruritus.

Discussion This case series supports the efficacy of LT-NBD in the treatment of intractable pruritus. We propose that NBD offers an accessible modality for the treatment of intractable pruritus in liver disease, potentially avoiding the need for liver transplantation.


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