We have investigated the possibility that the abnormally decreased gall bladder contraction after meals in patients with coeliac disease might result in part from an abnormality in the gall bladder response to endogenous cholecystokinetic hormones--for example, cholecystokinin and motilin--rather than solely from decreased secretion of such hormones. Eight patients with untreated coeliac disease and nine controls received intravenous infusions of the pure synthetic cholecystokinin analogue caerulein, 2-16 ng/kg/hour. Gall bladder emptying was measured on a minute-by-minute basis using 99mTc-HIDA scans. In the patients with coeliac disease, gall bladder emptying was greatly decreased (34.6 +/- 9.9 v 61.5 +/- 7.5% at 60 minutes, p less than 0.02), and a much greater dose of caerulein was needed to initiate gall bladder contraction (3.80 +/- 1.08 v 1.49 +/- 0.56 ng/kg, p less than 0.02). These results suggest that the abnormal gall bladder contraction in coeliac disease is not simply because of impaired release of cholecystokinin. Although mechanical factors secondary to the increased gall bladder size in patients with coeliac disease might to some extent account for the findings, the alternative explanation is that the gall bladder muscle is for some reason resistant to the action of cholecystokinetic agents. A similar phenomenon affecting the pancreas might contribute to the abnormally decreased pancreatic secretion found in coeliac disease.
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