One hundred and twenty-four infants admitted to hospitals in Norway between 1955 and 1974 during the first 3 months of life with cholestatic jaundice were studied retrospectively. Sixty-four infants had had extrahepatic atresia of the biliary tree and 60 had had intrahepatic cholestasis. This gives an incidence of about 1:9000 live births for cholestasis. In 4 of the 64 infants with extra-hepatic atresia a bile duct-to-bowel anastomosis had been performed but this was successful in only 2. Sixty of these infants had died by their 2nd birthday. Twenty-six of the infants with intrahepatic cholestasis had died by 1978 and the most common causes of death were cholestasis complicated by infection, bleeding, or hepatoma. The survivors aged between 4 and 23 years were followed up in 1978. In about two-thirds of them aetiological factors--such as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, arteriohepatic dysplasia, cholestasis with lymphoedema--and other familial or genetic factors, or infections were found. Four of the 34 survivors are known to have cirrhosis. Twenty patients had biochemical abnormalities, and 12 had normal liver function tests. Two patients could not be examined. Of the 19 patients with familial or genetic aetiological factors, 4 had cirrhosis, 14 had biochemical abnormalities, and only 5 had normal liver function tests. Of 11 survivors with idiopathic disease or septicaemia, none had cirrhosis and only 4 had abnormal liver function tests.
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