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Gastroenterology. 1994 Jan;106(1):215-24.

Pathogenic factors in early recurrence of cholesterol gallstones.

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Department of Medicine II, Klinikum Grosshadern, University of Munich, Germany.



Supersaturation of bile with cholesterol, rapid nucleation of cholesterol crystals, and/or incomplete emptying of the gallbladder are believed to be required for gallstone formation. The importance of these factors for the recurrence of gallbladder stones was studied.


Twenty patients, untreated after successful shock wave therapy, were studied in a matched case-control design for bile acid turnover, composition of duodenal bile, and gallbladder emptying. In 10 of them, gallstones had recurred within 12 +/- 2 months (X +/- SEM); the other 10 had been free of stones since 22 +/- 3 months.


In each group, duodenal bile was supersaturated with cholesterol in 8 of 10 patients and showed abnormal nucleation time of cholesterol crystals in half of the patients. Patients with recurrent stones had smaller pool sizes of cholic acid (-43%) and enhanced conversion of cholic acid to deoxycholic acid. The odds for stone recurrence were ninefold increased in the presence of excessive deoxycholic acid (exceeding cholic acid) in the bile acid pool or incomplete emptying of the gallbladder (residual volume > 5 mL) in response to cholecystokinin. The odds ratio was over 20-fold increased when incomplete emptying of the gallbladder coincided with supersaturated bile or with excessive deoxycholic acid.


Enhanced conversion of cholic acid to deoxycholic acid and incomplete emptying of the gallbladder could be important cofactors for the recurrence of gallstones.

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