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Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)

Blocked bile ducts

PSC is uncommon and affects the bile ducts and liver, causing inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis and liver damage

About PSV

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a rare, chronic disease where the bile ducts inside and outside the liver progressively decrease in size due to inflammation and scarring (fibrosis). PSC can occur alone, but is usually associated with inflammatory diseases of the colon. Bile breaks up fat from food so that it can be absorbed into the body.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of blocked bile ducts icon plus

    Usually there aren't any symptoms at first and PSC is only discovered because of abnormal results of routine blood tests in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. In some people, PSC does not produce any symptoms for many years but when they do arise, symptoms develop gradually over weeks or months.

    Symptoms may include:

    • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
    • feeling generally unwell
    • abdominal discomfort in the right upper abdomen
    • diarrhoea
    • itchy skin
    • weight loss
    • fever, shaking and chills
    • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)

    Liver failure may develop. PSC may also be complicated by the development of bile duct cancer.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and may recommend tests to aid diagnosis. Tests usually include:

    • Liver function tests (LFTs), blood tests that measure enzymes and proteins made in the liver. These can indicate liver inflammation and liver function
    • An ultrasound scan of the liver.
    • A cholangiogram to show a picture of the bile ducts. There are two methods: an endoscopic cholangiogram (ERCP) or a magnetic resonance cholangiogram (MRCP).
    • Fibroscan to assess liver fibrosis.
    • A liver biopsy where a tiny sample of liver tissue is taken for study. This can show inflammation and the extent of any cirrhosis (scarring), and assess how early or advanced the disease is.



  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If you've been diagnosed with PSC, your consultant will discuss your treatment options with you and help to determine the best approach.

    Currently there is no known cure for PSC, although symptoms such as itching can be treated with ursodeoxycholic acid, cholestyramine, rifampicin or naltrexone. 

    People with advanced PSC are often deficient in vitamins A, D and K and replacement fat-soluble vitamins are given. Endoscopic treatment of the bile ducts to dilate the narrowed bile ducts is also an option.

    In the late stages of the disease where there is advanced cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be recommended.

Our HPB consultants

Our medical and surgical consultants specialise in the hepatobiliary system which includes the liver, bile duct and pancreas. 

Consultant with patient

Our locations

From complex liver surgery to hepatobiliary tests and minor diagnostic procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

  • The Wellington North Building - Liver Unit

    The Wellington Hospital Liver Unit

    The Wellington Hospital Liver Unit

    North Building, Circus Road, St John's Wood

    London NW8 6DP

    Call 020 7483 5933

  • The Princess Grace Hospital

    42-52 Nottingham Place

    London W1U 5NY

    Appointments 020 7908 8001
    General enquiries 020 7486 1234

  • London Bridge Hospital

    London Bridge Hospital

    27 Tooley Street


    SE1 2PR

    Appointments & Enquiries 020 7234 2009
    Imaging Appointments 020 7234 2773

  • The HSC exterior

    The Harley Street Clinic

    35 Weymouth Street

    London  W1G 8BJ

    Appointments 020 7935 7700
    General enquiries 020 7034 8181

  • The Lister Hospital

    Chelsea Bridge Road


    SW1W 8RH

    Appointments 020 7730 8298
    General enquiries 020 7730 7733

  • The Portland Hospital

    205 - 209 Great Portland Street


    W1W 5AH

    Children's enquiries 020 7390 8020
    Maternity enquiries 020 7390 6068
    Gynaecology enquiries 020 7390 6200

  • HCA UK at The Wilmslow Hospital

    52-54 Alderley Road


    SK9 1NY

    Appointments 020 7483 5148
    General enquiries 01615 160 961

  • MRI scans

    London Liver Centre

    4th Floor, Emblem House

    27 Tooley Street

    London SE1 2PR

    Appointments & enquiries 020 7234 2730

  • Male-receptionist-greets-male-visitor

    London Digestive Centre

    41 Welbeck Street


    W1G 8DU

    Call 020 7908 8003
    Opening hours Monday - Friday: 8am - 8pm

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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