The symptoms of 100 patients with gall bladder stone disease were prospectively analysed before and after successful treatment with extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and oral bile acids. This is of considerable clinical interest because complaints after cholecystectomy persist in 21-47% of patients (postcholecystectomy syndrome). Before ESWL, 37 patients had unspecific abdominal symptoms (feeling of fullness and pressure, or slight pain, or both, in the right upper abdomen, flatulence, nausea, or food intolerance) and 63 patients had typical biliary symptoms (severe steady pain of more than 15 minutes and less than five hours duration in the right upper abdomen, in some cases radiating to the epigastrium or the back) either exclusively or with unspecific abdominal complaints. After becoming stone free, 72 of 100 patients lost the symptoms they had before treatment. All 28 patients with persisting symptoms had unspecific abdominal symptoms before treatment (exclusively unspecific symptoms and unspecific plus typical biliary symptoms). In contrast, patients with typical biliary symptoms before ESWL lost these in 95% of all cases. Although the anatomical structures are left intact after ESWL, the percentages of stone free patients with persisting symptoms are similar to those after cholecystectomy.
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