In this study gall bladder emptying patterns in response to a solid meal were studied using ultrasound. A similar triphasic pattern was seen in eight healthy control subjects and eight patients with gall stones, with 'early' and 'late' net emptying phases separated by a period of net refilling with peak postprandial gall bladder volumes occurring at (mean (SD)) 33.1 (17.9) minutes and 27.4 (18.8) minutes in control subjects and patients, respectively. A phase of slower net emptying followed, which was complete at 146 (33) minutes in control subjects and 125 (33) minutes in the gall stone patients (not significant). Superimposed upon this overall triphasic pattern, postprandial gall bladder emptying was punctuated by repeated short lived episodes of filling and emptying. The mean (SD) estimated postprandial bile outputs were 0.83 (0.34) ml/min in four control subjects and 1.2 (1.1) ml/min in seven patients with gall stones. We propose a 'washout' model to reconcile this large turnover of bile with the concentrating and storage functions of the gall bladder and predict that the extent rather than the rate of gall bladder emptying is important in determining stasis of bile in the gall bladder.
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