Repeated bile acid therapy for the long-term management of cholesterol gallstones

Maria L. Petroni, Riadh P. Jazrawi, Alberto Lanzini, Massimo Zuin, Paolo Pazzi, Mario Fracchia, Elezabetta Boga, Daniella Facchinetti, Vittorio Alvisi, Giovanni Galatola, J. Martin Bland, Ken W. Heaton, M. Podda, Tim C. Northfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Aims: Following non-surgical treatment, cholesterol gallstones recur in a high proportion of patients, and recurrence cannot be predicted nor effectively prevented. Our aim was to test prospectively the viability and the efficacy of repeated bile acid therapy, in which recurrent stones are diagnosed at an early stage by regular ultrasound monitoring and promptly retreated, as a strategy for the management of these patients in clinical practice. Methods: One hundred and seventy-two consecutive patients were recruited upon achieving complete gallstone dissolution using non-surgical therapy (bile acids or lithotripsy plus bile acids), and followed up at 6-monthly intervals by ultrasound scan. Gallstone recurrence was promptly treated by a combination of ursodeoxycholic acid plus chenodeoxycholic acid (5 mg/kg per day each) for a period of 2 years, or less if complete redissolution was achieved. Median follow-up period was 34 months (range 6-70). Results: Forty-five patients had gallstone recurrence; of these, 39 underwent one or more repeated courses of bile acid therapy (follow-up data available in 27). Gallstone recurrence rate was 15% at 1 year and 47% at 5 years. Average annual redissolution rate of recurrent gallstones (intention to treat) was 41%. The proportion of gallstone-free patients in the whole population was 88%, 84%, 77%, 78%, 75% at 1-5 years, respectively, and rose to > 90% at 3 years onwards in patients with single primary stones. Conclusions: We conclude that repeated bile acid therapy maintains the majority of patients gallstone free, and is therefore an effective long-term management strategy, especially in patients with primary single gallstones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-724
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • Bile acids and salts
  • Cholelithiasis: complication, diagnosis, epidemiology, prevention and control, radiography, therapy
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Recurrence, models, theoretical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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