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Cholestasis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Hisham Nazer, MB, BCh, FRCP, , DTM&H; Chief Editor: Carmen Cuffari, MD  more...
Updated: Aug 21, 2015

Medical Care

Much medical care in patients with cholestasis is disease specific.

  • Cholestasis often does not respond to medical therapy of any sort. Some reports indicate success in children with chronic cholestatic diseases with the use of ursodeoxycholic acid (20-30 mg/kg/d), which acts to increase bile formation and antagonizes the effect of hydrophobic bile acids on biological membranes. Phenobarbital (5 mg/kg/d) may also be useful in some children with chronic cholestasis.
  • Treatment of fat malabsorption principally involves dietary substitution. In older patients, a diet that is rich in carbohydrates and proteins can be substituted for a diet containing long-chain triglycerides. In infants, that may not be possible, and substitution of a formula containing medium-chain triglycerides may improve fat absorption and nutrition. This, however, has not clearly been proven, and therapeutic formulas containing medium-chain triglycerides may not be worth their expense. Bile salt therapy to replace missing bile salts is not practical. Ursodeoxycholic acid, which is used to treat some cholestatic conditions, does not form mixed micelles and has no effect on fat absorption.
  • In chronic cholestasis, careful attention must be paid to prevent fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies, which are common complications in pediatric patients with chronic cholestasis. This is accomplished by administering fat-soluble vitamins and monitoring the response to therapy. Oral absorbable, fat-soluble vitamin formulation A, D, E, and K supplementation is safe and potentially effective in pediatric patients with cholestasis.

Surgical Care

See the list below:

  • Surgical care is disease specific; therefore, refer to articles about disease states (see Causes).


See the list below:

  • Referral to a specialist in gastroenterology or hepatology is indicated for any patient with cholestatic liver disease, particularly if it is severe or prolonged.


See the list below:

  • See Medical Care.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Hisham Nazer, MB, BCh, FRCP, , DTM&H Professor of Pediatrics, Consultant in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Clinical Nutrition, University of Jordan Faculty of Medicine, Jordan

Hisham Nazer, MB, BCh, FRCP, , DTM&H is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Physician Leadership, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of the United Kingdom

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Carmen Cuffari, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology/Nutrition, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Carmen Cuffari, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Prometheus Laboratories for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Abbott Nutritionals for speaking and teaching.

Additional Contributors

Jayant Deodhar, MD Associate Professor in Pediatrics, BJ Medical College, India; Honorary Consultant, Departments of Pediatrics and Neonatology, King Edward Memorial Hospital, India

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Eruptive xanthomas. Courtesy of Duke University Medical Center.
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