The frequency with which florid duct lesions are seen in needle-biopsy specimens of the liver was assessed in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) enrolled in a 2-year randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trial of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) versus placebo. Paired biopsy specimens obtained at entry and after 2 years on medication were reviewed blindly and mostly simultaneously by a panel of 5 hepatopathologists who, earlier, had characterized the florid duct lesion, which has been well described in the pathology literature. Florid duct lesions at entry were identified in approximately 36%. Patients with earlier disease showed florid duct lesions much more frequently than those with more advanced disease. The prevalence of florid duct lesions in 60 patients receiving placebo medication fell from 38.3% to 21.7%, P = .025, over the period of 2 years. The prevalence of florid duct lesions also decreased in the 55 patients receiving UDCA, from 32.7% to 18.2%, P = .046. The prevalences of these lesions in the placebo and UDCA patients at entry and at 2 years were not significantly different from each other. The findings suggest that UDCA does not prevent ongoing bile duct destruction in patients with PBC. Instead, they support the impression that UDCA exerts its beneficial effects by protecting against the consequences of bile duct destruction.
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