Intrahepatic cholestasis in pregnancy. Its etiopathogenesis, prognosis and therapy.

D Brites, J Poeiras, C Rodrigues


Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a rare disease of unknown cause, recurrent, characterized by pruritus and, in some cases, mild jaundice. This cholestasis usually appears during the second half of pregnancy, and resolves in the early puerperium. ICP results in the elevation of serum total bile acids concentrations, mainly cholic acid, and abnormal routine liver function tests. Although maternal outcome is invariably good, an increased fetal risk has been reported, namely premature deliveries, fetal distress, and perinatal mortality. To avoid these deleterious consequences, strict fetal monitoring must be carried out during the final weeks of pregnancy, and the decision for delivery taken as soon as term or fetal maturity are achieved. The ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), that has been beneficial in other cholestatic liver diseases therapeutics, may become a promising drug in the treatment of ICP; nevertheless, due to the scarce experience with its use during ICP, and because its metabolism and mechanism of action is still poorly understood, it seems reasonable to test the effect of UDCA in these patients.

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