Failure of ursodeoxycholic acid to dissolve radiolucent gallstones in patients with cystic fibrosis

C. Colombo, E. Bertolini, M. L. Assaisso, N. Bettinardi, A. Giunta, M. Podda

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Ursodeoxycholic acid has been used widely to dissolve cholesterol gallstones and more recently was shown to improve clinical symptoms and biochemical indices in different chronic liver diseases, including that associated with cystic fibrosis. We treated 10 cystic fibrosis patients (5 males, 5 females, age range 2-22 years) with pancreatic insufficiency and normal liver function with ursodeoxycholic acid 15-20 mg/kg/day. Seven patients had radiolucent gallstones (in 3 cases associated with biliary sludge) and 3 had sludge; all were asymptomatic. Before treatment, the gallbladder was well opacified in oral cholecystogram. The gallbladder was scanned by ultrasound in similar conditions and by the same operator before administration of ursodeoxycholic acid and after a median period of treatment of 16 months (range 11-32 months). During treatment, all patients remained asymptomatic and the relative proportion of ursodeoxycholic acid in duodenal bile increased from 4.7 ± 3.2% at baseline to 34.7 ± 8.6%. Complete or partial dissolution of gallstones was never observed and the maximum diameter of stones increased from a mean of 6.1 ± 3.4 to 8.0 ± 5.3 mm; in one case the development of biliary sludge occurred during bile acid therapy. Sludge disappeared in 1 of the 6 patients who initially had it, while in 2 cases its volume increased. We conclude that ursodeoxycholic acid is not effective in most CF patients with gallstones, probably because cholesterol is not the main component of stone or sludge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-565
Number of pages4
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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