Brown pigment gallstones: The role of bacterial hydrolases and another missed opportunity


  • Jorge J. Gumucio,

    1. Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Room 111D, VA Medical Center/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
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  • J. Donald Ostrow M.D.

    1. Medical Investigator (151), Veterans Administration, Lakeside Medical Center, 400 East Ontario Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611
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The bile acids in brown pigment stones and gallbladder bile were fractionated into free acids, glycine and taurine conjugates, and sulfates, using diethylamino-hydroxypropyl-Sephadex LH-20 (DEAPLH-20) column chromatography, and were quantitated by gas chromatography. Twenty-eight cases of brown pigment stones were studied and divided into two groups: those with and those without bacteria possessing bile acid-deconjugating activity. In the former, free bile acid amounted to 62 ± 34% of the total bile acid, while in the latter, only 0.1% of total bile acid was free bile acid. The fraction of total bile acid made up of free bile acids was found to be consistently higher in brown pigment stones than in the corresponding bile, irrespective of the presence or absence of biliary infection. Free bile acid is present in negligible amounts in normal bile. Total bile acid concentration in the bile of patients with brown pigment stones was significantly less than that of controls (13 vs. 50 mg/ml). Biliary infection is almost always present in cases with brown pigment stones. These findings suggest that bacterial infection is present at the initiation of brown pigment stone formation as well as during the period of ensuing stone growth.