The clinical features of 61 patients with sclerosing cholangitis were reviewed. This group included 23 patients with biliary tract calculi, commonly considered as excluding the diagnosis of primary sclerosing cholangitis. The aim of this study was to compare these 23 patients (group A) with 38 patients with sclerosing cholangitis free of calculi (group B). Both groups had the following features in common: (i) age at presentation, (ii) incidence of inflammatory bowel disease, (iii) extent of radiological disease, (iv) prevalence of HLA-B8 and DR3 haplotype, (v) incidence of cholangiocarcinoma, and (vi) progression to hepatic transplantation (mean follow up 49.9 months). All patients in group A were symptomatic at diagnosis compared with 23 of the 38 patients (61%) in group B. Recurrent ascending cholangitis occurred in 12 patients in group A (52%) and two patients (5%) in group B. The similarity between the two groups was maintained when the nine patients in group A who developed calculi after sclerosing cholangitis was diagnosed were excluded. It is concluded that choledocholithiasis is part of the spectrum of primary sclerosing cholangitis and that it is not necessary to invoke choledocholithiasis as the initial lesion of the bile ducts in such patients.
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