The time required for precipitation of cholesterol crystals (nucleation time, NT) was determined and related to the cholesterol saturation in gall bladder bile of gall stone free subjects (n = 11), patients with pigment stones (n = 3), and patients with cholesterol gall stones (n = 30) undergoing cholecystectomy. Seven of the gall stone patients had been treated with chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) and nine with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), 15 mg/kg/day for three weeks before operation. NT was longer in gall stone free subjects (mean, 20 days), patients with pigment stones (14 days) and patients treated with CDCA (24 days) and UDCA (17 days) compared with untreated patients with cholesterol gall stones (1.5 days). In spite of low cholesterol saturation and prolonged NT, and in contrast to those treated with CDCA, four of the nine patients treated with UDCA had cholesterol crystals in their bile. These observations give further support to the concept that the mechanism for inducing gall stone dissolution may be different for CDCA and UDCA.
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