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Resistance to chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) treatment in obese patients with gall stones

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 10 June 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:1509
  1. J H Iser,
  2. Paul N Maton,
  3. Gerard M Murphy,
  4. R Hermon Dowling


    In most patients with radiolucent gall stones who were given chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) in doses of 13-15 mg/kg body weight/day the bile became unsaturated in cholesterol, and their gall stones dissolved. The patients whose stones did not dissolve were significantly heavier and fatter than the responders, which suggested that obese patients might be “resistant” to the effects of CDCA. To test this hypothesis, 32 consecutive patients presenting for medical treatment of gall stones had their ideal body weight (IBW) and estimated body fat mass calculated. The eight most obese and the eight least obese patients were then selected, and their fasting bile lipid responses to CDCA 13-15 mg/kg/day were measured. The very obese patients were also given larger doses, and any changes in bile lipid composition were studied in relation to subsequent gall-stone dissolution.

    Before treatment the obese patients had a higher mean biliary cholesterol saturation index than the non-obese patients, and this difference was maintained during treatment with the normal dose of CDCA: the bile in the obese patients remained supersaturated while that in the non-obese became unsaturated with cholesterol. When the obese patients were given larger doses of CDCA their bile ultimately became unsaturated in cholesterol. Gall stones dissolved partially or completely in five of the eight non-obese patients after 6-18 months of 13-15 mg CDCA/kg/day, but none of the obese patients showed any response after comparable periods of treatment with this standard dose. With increased doses and unsaturated bile, however, three of the obese patients showed partial gall-stone dissolution after 3-12 months' treatment and one showed complete gall-stone dissolution after three years' treatment.

    These results suggest that when giving CDCA to patients with gall stones, larger than normal doses (some 18-20 mg/kg/day) should be prescribed. Alternatively the lipid composition of the patients' bile should be monitored by duodenal intubation and the CDCA dose increased until the bile becomes unsaturated in cholesterol.


    • * This paper was presented in part at the annual meeting of the British Society of Gastroenterology, Aviemore, 1976.