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Gastroenterology. 1996 Sep;111(3):617-22.

Bowel habit after cholecystectomy: physiological changes and clinical implications.

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Digestive System Research Unit, Hospital General Vall d'Hebron, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain.



Scarce data suggest that cholecystectomy may alter bowel habit. The aim of this study was to determine whether cholecystectomy modifies gut transit.


Five experimental groups were studied: 29 patients with uncomplicated gallstones before and 1 month after elective cholecystectomy, 22 patients 4 years after elective cholecystectomy, 14 patients with postcholecystectomy diarrhea, 5 patients with acute infectious diarrhea (disease controls), and 13 patients before and 1 month after other elective surgery (surgical controls). All participants underwent measurement of colonic transit by a modified radiopaque pellet method and orocecal transit by the standard lactulose breath H2 test.


One month postoperatively, cholecystectomy had substantially accelerated total colonic transit (51 +/- 5 hours before vs. 38 +/- 5 hours after; P < 0.05) and delayed slightly orocecal transit (80 +/- 4 minutes before vs. 103 +/- 8 minutes after; P = 0.05). Similar colonic and orocecal transit times were measured 4 years after cholecystectomy (40 +/- 4 hours and 105 +/- 8 minutes, respectively). Colonic transit times in patients with the postcholecystectomy diarrhea syndrome were accelerated as much as in patients with infectious diarrhea, who served as controls (19 +/- 3 hours and 15 +/- 4 hours, respectively). Surgery per se had no effect on gut transit.


Cholecystectomy shortens gut transit by accelerating colonic passage. These sequelae develop early and persist at least 4 years after cholecystectomy. The postcholecystectomy diarrhea syndrome probably represents a magnification of the above colonic sequelae.

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