BACKGROUND: Vanishing bile duct syndrome has been associated with different pathologic conditions (adverse drug reactions, autoimmune diseases, graft versus host disease, and cancer). Though its causes are unknown, an immune-related pathogenesis is the most likely one. Vanishing bile duct syndrome can evolve to hepatic failure and, eventually, to death. The treatment is uncertain, but it needs the resolution of the underlying pathologic condition.
CASE PRESENTATION: We describe the association of Hodgkin's lymphoma with a syndrome characterized by cholestasis, aminotransferase elevation and an histological picture of bile duct loss. All other causes of hepatic function impairment were excluded (in particular, drugs, viral and autoimmune related diseases) eventually leading to the diagnosis of vanishing bile duct syndrome. Despite the fact that the dysfunction is not caused by hepatic Hodgkin's lymphoma involvement, liver impairment can limit the optimal therapy of Hodgkin's lymphoma. A treatment consisting of ursodeoxycholic acid, prednisone, and full dose chemotherapy restored hepatic function and achieved complete and long-lasting remission of Hodgkin's lymphoma.
CONCLUSION: We reviewed all case reports showing that vanishing bile duct syndrome is a dismal paraneoplastic syndrome being fatal in a high proportion of patients if not adequately treated. Indeed, this syndrome requires both an early recognition and an appropriate aggressive treatment consisting of full dose upfront chemotherapy which is the only way to achieve a resolution of the vanishing bile duct syndrome. Delayed or reduced intensity treatments unfavorably correlate with survival.
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