Research Article

Is bile acid malabsorption underdiagnosed? An evaluation of accuracy of diagnosis by measurement of SeHCAT retention.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 290 doi: (Published 02 March 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;290:665
  1. M V Merrick,
  2. M A Eastwood,
  3. M J Ford


    The cause of intractable chronic diarrhoea was found to be malabsorption of bile acid in five out of 42 patients thought to have the irritable bowel syndrome, six out of 29 patients with persistent diarrhoea after surgery for peptic ulcer, 23 who had undergone small bowel resection, and two others. Specific treatment brought symptomatic relief. The diagnosis was established by measuring the proportion of SeHCAT, a synthetic bile salt, retained one week after oral administration of a tracer dose of less than 100 micrograms of the compound labelled with 40 kBq (1 microCi) of selenium-75. These results indicate that malabsorption of bile acid is a more common cause of chronic diarrhoea than is generally appreciated. Measurement of retention of SeHCAT is a simple, accurate, and acceptable means of establishing the diagnosis of this debilitating but treatable condition.