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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 22 (2008), Issue 5, Pages 505-507
Brief Communication

Role of Plasmapheresis in the Treatment of Severe Pruritus in Pregnant Patients with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis: Case Reports

Alallam Alallam, David Barth, and E Jenny Heathcote

Department of Medicine, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Received 31 August 2007; Accepted 10 January 2008

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) may be associated with pruritus and, when present, may be accentuated during pregnancy. Several therapeutic modalities have been used to control itching caused by cholestasis, with variable responses. Drug therapies are ill-advised, particularly in early pregnancy. Plasmapheresis has been successful in controlling pruritus in patients with cholestasis. The use of plasmapheresis to alleviate severe life-threatening pruritus during pregnancy is reported in two patients with PBC.

CASE PRESENTATIONS: Two patients with PBC presented during their second trimester of pregnancy with severe pruritus that did not respond to the anion exchange resin cholestyramine. Their symptoms were disabling to the point that one patient had suicidal ideation. Given the severity of their symptoms, multiple sessions of plasmapheresis were instituted with good control of pruritus. Both patients tolerated the procedure well and delivered healthy babies.

CONCLUSION: Plasmapheresis is a relatively safe and rapidly effective treatment for severe pruritus during pregnancy in patients with PBC.