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Br J Surg. 2004 Jun;91(6):734-8.

Development of symptoms and complications in individuals with asymptomatic gallstones.

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Department of Surgery, University Hospital of Linköping, SE-58185 Linköping, Sweden.



Gallbladder stones are common in the developed world. Complications of gallstones contribute substantially to healthcare costs and may be life threatening. The identification of individuals likely to develop complications would be of benefit in clinical practice as elective cholecystectomy could then be performed.


Seven hundred and thirty-nine subjects aged 35-85 years from the general population were screened for gallbladder problems by ultrasonography and questionnaire assessment of putative risk factors and digestive symptoms. Gallstones, cholesterolosis or sludge in the gallbladder were diagnosed in 123 (16.3 per cent) of 739 subjects, 120 of whom were followed for a median of 87 (range 3-146) months to May 2003 or until treatment was required.


Fourteen patients were admitted to hospital and treated for gallstone-related complications or symptoms. The cumulative risk of being treated during the first 5 years after detection of asymptomatic gallstones was 7.6 per cent and there was no indication of this risk levelling off. There were no significant differences between treated and untreated subjects with regard to digestive symptoms or any of the risk factors monitored at the initial screening, although treated subjects were significantly younger than those who were not treated.


Nearly one in ten individuals with asymptomatic gallbladder stones in the general population may be expected to develop symptoms or complications that require treatment within 5 years. Age may be inversely related to the incidence of complications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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