Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Gall stones in sickle cell disease in the United Kingdom.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 25 July 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:234
  1. L R Bond,
  2. S R Hatty,
  3. M E Horn,
  4. M Dick,
  5. H B Meire,
  6. A J Bellingham
  1. King's College Hospital, London.


    The prevalence of gall stones was studied prospectively by abdominal ultrasound examination in 131 patients with sickle cell disease aged 10-65 years. Of 95 patients with homozygous sickle cell disease, 55 (58%) had gall stones or had had a cholecystectomy. Gall stones were present in four out of 24 (17%) patients with haemoglobin S + C disease and two out of 12 (17%) with haemoglobin S beta thalassaemia. The presence of gall stones was not related to sex, geographical origin, or haematological variables and was not associated with abnormal results of liver function tests. Symptoms typical of biliary colic were reported by 32 out of 47 adult patients with gall stones, and cholecystitis or cholestasis was diagnosed in 18. Cholecystectomy was performed in 29 patients with good relief of symptoms in most cases. Postoperative complications were common, occurring in 10 of the 28 patients who could be evaluated, but not generally serious; they were considerably lessened by a preoperative exchange transfusion that reduced the haemoglobin S concentration to below 40%. It is suggested that all patients with sickle cell disease should be screened for gall stones and that elective cholecystectomy should be performed in those with symptoms or complications.