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Scand J Gastroenterol. 1998 Sep;33(9):993-7.

Gallbladder contents and fasting gallbladder volumes during and after pregnancy.

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  • 1Dept. of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology, Medical Centre Alkmaar, The Netherlands.



A high risk of developing sludge or gallstones has been associated with pregnancy. The aim of this study was to relate the prevalence of sludge and gallstones during and shortly after pregnancy to fasting gallbladder volume as an indicator of gallbladder motility.


The population included 114 apparently healthy pregnant women from the Outpatient Clinic of Obstetrics of a large regional hospital and from the practices of regional midwives. Ultrasonography of the gallbladder was performed at weeks 15, 25, and 35 of gestation and at week 3 and month 6 postpartum.


At gestational week 15, 3 women had gallstones and 10 had sludge (mean volume, 33.8 ml), and 99 women had a normal gallbladder (mean volume, 30.5 ml). At week 25, 1 woman with a normal gallbladder formed gallstones and underwent cholecystectomy shortly after, and 22 women had sludge, of whom 13 had a normal gallbladder at first examination (mean volume, 33.2 ml). In 88 women with normal gallbladders (of whom 2 had sludge at week 15) mean volume was 31.9 ml. At week 35, 2 women had gallstones, and 21 had sludge (mean volume, 30.5 ml). In the remaining 79 women the gallbladders were clear (mean volume, 29.5 ml). Eight women developed sludge and two women gallstones in normal gallbladders at week 25. Seven women with sludge at week 25 had a normal gallbladder at week 35. Three weeks postpartum only 10 of 100 women had sludge (mean volume, 29.1 ml). Of these 10, 9 women had a normal gallbladder at week 35. Twenty of 21 women with sludge at week 35 had normal gallbladders week 3 postpartum. Gallstones found at week 35 had disappeared. In the women with a normal gallbladder the mean volume was decreased to 19.7 ml (P < 0.0001). Six months postpartum, sludge was found in 6 (mean volume, 18.4 ml) of 93 women (mean volume, 20.3 ml), of whom 5 had a normal gallbladder at week 3 postpartum. Only 61 women showed a normal gallbladder at each examination of the study. No differences in patient characteristics were found between women with normal gallbladders and those with sludge or gallstones.


Fasting gallbladder volume was increased in all pregnant women. This could not explain the formation of sludge or gallstones during gestation. Decrement of gallbladder volumes after delivery was faster in normal, clear gallbladders. More than a prerequisite, increased fasting gallbladder volume seemed to be a permissive factor of pregnancy-associated gallstone formation.

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