INTRODUCTION: The surgical management of ulcerative colitis in the patient with primary sclerosing cholangitis is controversial. METHODS: This study was designed as a retrospective chart review of all patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis who were surgically treated for ulcerative colitis. RESULTS: Sixteen patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis and ulcerative colitis were identified. The indication for ulcerative colitis surgery was dysplasia in 7 patients (44 percent), cancer in 2 (13 percent), intractability in 4 (25 percent), and unknown in 1. Final colon pathology demonstrated cancer in three patients and dysplasia in four. Two patients had biliary cancer discovered at the time of orthotopic liver transplantation. Thirteen patients were known to have primary sclerosing cholangitis when they underwent surgery for ulcerative colitis; two patients with severe primary sclerosing cholangitis underwent simultaneous orthotopic liver transplantation/total abdominal colectomy and did well with subsequent ileal pouch reconstruction. Two patients had orthotopic liver transplantation first and then ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (1 patient) or total abdominal colectomy (1 patient) and did well. Seven patients had well-controlled primary sclerosing cholangitis on medication and underwent ileal pouch-anal anastomosis or total abdominal proctocolectomy without significant hepatic compromise. One patient with moderate primary sclerosing cholangitis underwent ileorectal anastomosis and had severe liver failure postoperatively but survived. Another patient with worsening primary sclerosing cholangitis after total abdominal colectomy has since developed persistent bleeding from peristomal varices. CONCLUSIONS: The overall cancer/premalignant lesion rate was high (50 percent in this study) in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis and ulcerative colitis. Complications associated with the surgical management of ulcerative colitis are largely dictated by the degree of liver disease present at the time of surgery. Patients with significant primary sclerosing cholangitis that requires colectomy can undergo simultaneous orthotopic liver transplantation/total abdominal colectomy and then be candidates for subsequent ileal pouchanal anastomosis reconstruction once liver function has improved. Patients with well-controlled primary sclerosing cholangitis can undergo ileal pouch-anal anastomosis surgery safely.
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