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Cholic acid synthesis as an index of the severity of liver disease in man
  1. William C. McCormick III,
  2. C. Cooper Bell, Jr,
  3. Leon Swell,
  4. Z. Reno Vlahcevic


    Bile acid pool size and kinetics were determined in 17 patients with cirrhosis and 11 patients without liver disease and correlated with the severity of liver disease as determined by the usual clinical and laboratory criteria. In order to assess the severity of liver disease, a grading system was devised which assigned numerical values to various clinical signs and laboratory results. The total clinical score and the patients were divided into two groups of advanced (7-18 points) or mild (1-6 points) cirrhosis. The clinical rating was then correlated with the various aspects of bile acid metabolism. Cholic acid synthesis was markedly reduced in the early stages of cirrhosis and continued to decrease with the advancement of the liver disease. There was an inverse correlation between synthesis of cholic acid and the severity of cirrhosis. Nine of the 10 patients with advanced cirrhosis and a very low cholic acid synthetic rate (average 68 mg per day) died within one to 13 months from the start of the study. Patients with mild cirrhosis also had significantly reduced cholic acid synthesis (average 152 mg per day) but they all were well and alive three to 23 months after the study. In contrast, chenodeoxycholic acid synthesis was not markedly affected in either patients with mild or advanced cirrhosis. There was also a high degree of correlation between the fractional daily turnover rate of cholic acid and the severity of liver disease. The fractional daily turnover rate of cholic acid was greatly reduced (50%) in patients with advanced cirrhosis. Deoxycholic acid was reduced in patients with mild cirrhosis and virtually absent from the bile of patients with advanced cirrhosis. The findings of the present report provide evidence that cholic acid synthesis is a sensitive indicator of the hepatocellular damage, whereas chenodeoxycholic acid synthesis is relatively unaffected by cirrhosis. The selective alteration in cholic acid synthesis probably resides in a deficiency of one or more enzymes regulating the formation of the 3-keto, 7 alpha, 12 alpha-dihydroxy precursor of cholic acid.

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