Prevalence of, and predictors of, bile acid malabsorption in outpatients with chronic diarrhea


Address for Correspondence
Dr. Alex Ford, Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, Room 125, 4th Floor, Bexley Wing, St. James’s University Hospital, Beckett Street, Leeds LS9 7TF, UK.
Tel: +44 1132 68 4963; fax: +44 1132 42 9722;


Background  Many physicians do not consider the diagnosis of bile acid malabsorption in patients with chronic diarrhea, or do not have access to testing. We examined yield of 23-seleno-25-homo-tauro-cholic acid (SeHCAT) scanning in chronic diarrhea patients, and attempted to identify predictors of a positive test.

Methods  Consecutive patients with chronic diarrhea undergoing SeHCAT scan over a 7-year period were identified retrospectively. Bile acid malabsorption was defined as present at a retention of <15%. Medical records were reviewed to obtain information regarding proposed risk factors. Gastrointestinal symptoms were recorded, and patients were classified as having diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) if they reported abdominal pain or discomfort. Independent risk factors were assessed using multivariate logistic regression, and odds ratios (ORs) with 99% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated.

Key Results  Of 373 patients, 190 (50.9%) had bile acid malabsorption. Previous cholecystectomy (OR 2.51; 99% CI 1.10–5.77), terminal ileal resection or right hemicolectomy for Crohn’s disease (OR 12.4; 99% CI 2.42–63.8), and terminal ileal resection or right hemicolectomy for other reasons (OR 7.94; 99% CI 1.02–61.6) were associated with its presence. Seventy-seven patients had IBS-D, and 21 (27.3%) tested positive. There were 168 patients with no risk factors for a positive SeHCAT scan, other than chronic diarrhea, and 63 (37.5%) had bile acid malabsorption.

Conclusions & Inferences  Bile acid malabsorption was present in 50% of patients undergoing SeHCAT scanning. Almost 40% of those without risk factors had evidence of bile acid malabsorption, and in those meeting criteria for IBS-D prevalence was almost 30%.