What Works for Itching?

Two recent articles delve into the issue of pruritus associated with cholestasis:

  • JE Squires et al. JPGN 2017; 64: 425-430.
  • Thebaut et al. JPGN 2017; 64: 431-35.

In the first study, a single-center retrospective review of 8 patients with FIC1 disease who underwent partial exernal biliary diversion (PEBD) showed that all patients had resolution of chronic cholestasis (T bili <2 mg/dL) but 7 of 8 experience episodic cholestatic events. Pruritus improved but did not resolve.  PEBD did not obviate the need for aggressive fat-soluble vitamin supplements.

In the second study, the authors added sertraline to patients who had ongoing pruritus despite ursodeoxycholic acid and rifampin therapy.  Patients had either Alagille syndrome or PFIC (progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis). Two patients had undergone PEBD. Sertraline was started at 1 mg/kg/day and increased as needed every two weeks to max of 4 mg/kg/day (median daily dose 2.2 mg/kg/day).  6 patients had adverse effects, including agitation (2), skin reactions (2), alopecia (1) and vomiting (1). Key finding:

  • 14 of 20 children had improved “itching score” from 8/10 to 5/10.  This correlated with improved sleep and less skin scratch marks.


Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

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