BACKGROUND AND AIM: An impaired contractility has been suggested as a contributor to the increased incidence of gallstones in liver cirrhosis, but the few studies on gall bladder emptying in cirrhotics offered contradictory results. Ingestion of a meal triggers the physiological pathway of gall bladder emptying; therefore, it was decided to analyse postprandial kinetics by investigating simultaneously the rates of gastric and gall bladder emptying of a mixed meal in patients with liver cirrhosis. METHODS: Gastric and gall bladder emptying were measured using ultrasound techniques after a solid-liquid meal (14 g fat, 425 kcal) in 24 patients with liver cirrhosis and in 12 controls. None of the subjects had gall bladder disease. Sequential changes in cross sectional area of the gastric antrum and in gall bladder volume were represented as a monoexponential process after the test meal. Cirrhotic patients were analysed according to the severity of disease (Child classes). The presence of portal gastropathy was assessed by endoscopy. Differences between groups were assessed using the two tailed Student's t test for unpaired observations and the correlations by linear regression (Pearson's coefficient). RESULTS: It was found that gastric emptying after the solid-liquid meal was delayed in cirrhotic patients compared with controls. Gall bladder emptying was significantly diminished in cirrhotic patients: the area under curve was greater in Child A (p = 0.01), Child B (p = 0.04), and Child C (p = 0.014) cirrhotics compared with controls. No correlation was found between the variables of gastric and gall bladder emptying. Gall bladder refilling began earlier in cirrhotics than in controls, before completion of gastric emptying. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate the lack of coordination between gastric and gall bladder emptying in liver cirrhosis. They also support the hypothesis that diminished gall bladder contractility might contribute to the increased gallstone formation in liver cirrhosis.
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