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Gut. Sep 1999; 45(Suppl 2): II48–II54.
PMCID: PMC1766688

Functional disorders of the biliary tract and pancreas


The term "dysfunction" defines the motor disorders of the gall bladder and the sphincter of Oddi (SO) without note of the potential etiologic factors for the difficulty to differentiate purely functional alterations from subtle structural changes. Dysfunction of the gall bladder and/or SO produces similar patterns of biliopancreatic pain and SO dysfunction may occur in the presence of the gall bladder. The symptom-based diagnostic criteria of gall bladder and SO dysfunction are episodes of severe steady pain located in the epigastrium and right upper abdominal quadrant which last at least 30 minutes. Gall bladder and SO dysfunctions can cause significant clinical symptoms but do not explain many instances of biliopancreatic type of pain. The syndrome of functional abdominal pain should be differentiated from gall bladder and SO dysfunction. In the diagnostic workup, invasive investigations should be performed only in the presence of compelling clinical evidence and after non-invasive testing has yielded negative findings. Gall bladder dysfunction is suspected when laboratory, ultrasonographic, and microscopic bile examination have excluded the presence of gallstones and other structural abnormalities. The finding of decreased gall bladder emptying at cholecystokinin-cholescintigraphy is the only objective characteristic of gall bladder dysfunction. Symptomatic manifestation of SO dysfunction may be accompanied by features of biliary obstruction (biliary-type SO dysfunction) or significant elevation of pancreatic enzymes and pancreatitis (pancreatic-type SO dysfunction). Biliary-type SO dysfunction occurs more frequently in postcholecystectomy patients who are categorized into three types. Types I and II, but not type III, have biochemical and cholangiographic features of biliary obstruction. Pancreatic-type SO dysfunction is less well classified into types. When non-invasive investigations and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopanreatography show no structural abnormality, manometry of both biliary and pancreatic sphincter may be considered.

Keywords: biliary tract disease; sphincter of Oddi dysfunction; gallstone disease; pancreatitis; endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography; cholescintigraphy; endoscopic ultrasonography; cholecystokinin; magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography; Rome II

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Selected References

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