Pathogenesis and treatment of pruritus in patients with cholestasis
Schirrmacher, S.; Blumenstein, I.; Stein, J.
Zeitschrift für Gastroenterologie 41(3): 259-262
ISSN/ISBN: 0044-2771 PMID: 12664347 DOI: 10.1055/s-2003-37903
The pathogenesis of initiating the pruritus in patients with cholestasis is still not completely understood. One hypothesis is, that the cause for initiating the pruritus in patients with cholestasis is the activation of nerves in the skin. The activating substances are unknown, probably they are substances who accumulate in patients with cholestasis. Therefore one of the conventional approaches to treat pruritus is to remove pruritogenic substances from the body. Examples of this approach include the administration of anion exchange resins as cholestyramine or the administration of hepatic enzyme-inducing drugs such as rifampicin or phenobarbital. None of these drugs has been conclusively shown to be efficacious. A new hypothesis is the association of pruritus with altered central neurotransmission. Altered opioid concentrations probably play a central role in the pathogenesis of pruritus. This hypothesis is corroborate by the possibility of treating pruritus in patients with cholestasis with opiate antagonists such as naloxone or nalmefene. The treatment with ondansetron may also have effects on the pruritus of patients with cholestasis. A completely new treatment strategy is the application of dronabinol (r-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).