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Ursodeoxycholic Acid: A Safe and Effective Agent for Dissolving Cholesterol Gallstones

G. STEPHEN TINT, Ph.D.; GERALD SALEN, M.D.; ANTHONY COLALILLO, M.D.; DAVID GRABER, M.D.; DIANE VERGA, M.S.; JEFFREY SPECK, B.S.; and SARAH SHEFER, Ph.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant Support: in part by grants AM-18707 and HL-17818, AM-26756, the National Institutes of Health.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to G. Stephen Tint, Ph.D.; G.I. Laboratory/111, Veterans Administration Medical Center; East Orange, NJ 07019.


East Orange and Newark, New Jersey; and New York, New York


©1982 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1982;97(3):351-356. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-97-3-351
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Ursodeoxycholic acid, 250 to 300, 500 to 600, or 900 to 1000 mg/d, was given orally for 6 to 38 months to 53 patients with cholesterol gallstones and functioning gallbladders. Forty-two patients had greater than 50% reduction in gallstone volume, number, or both, without apparent dose dependence and 27 of these patients had complete gallstone dissolution. Results of laboratory studies including liver function tests were not affected adversely and biliary lithocholic acid concentration did not increase during therapy. Most biliary symptoms seemed to disappear within 3 months and no patient developed diarrhea. Large diameter and increased number of gallstones were found to hinder dissolution. The percentage of biliary ursodeoxycholic acid increased with increasing dose and reached a maximum of 50% to 60% of total bile acids at a dose of about 10 to 12 mg/kg body weight d. Biliary lithogenic index was reduced significantly during treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid, 500 to 600 and 900 to 1000 mg/d. Thus, ursodeoxycholic acid appears to be a safe and effective alternative to surgery in selected patients with gallstones.

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