Prognosis of adult-onset idiopathic bile acid malabsorption

Scand J Gastroenterol. 1999 Jun;34(6):587-90. doi: 10.1080/003655299750026047.


Background: From 1986 to 1993, 150 patients were investigated with the 75Se-homocholic acid taurine (SeHCAT) test as a late step in the investigation of chronic diarrhoea. On basis of low SeHCAT values and response to cholestyramine treatment, 33 patients were initially classified as having idiopathic bile acid malabsorption (IBAM). The aim was to describe the long-term clinical course of the disease and to assess the reliability of the SeHCAT test in diagnosing IBAM.

Methods: The methods included 1) clinical follow-up with patient interview combined with information from medical records and 2) repeated SeHCAT test.

Results: The diagnosis of IBAM had to be revised in three cases (inflammatory bowel disease in two patients, Clostridium difficile infection in one). Six patients were lost to follow-up and a further four patients were excluded from re-examination either because of old age (>80 years) or bowel resection, leaving 20 patients for re-examination, of which 16 completed both clinical follow-up and a new SeHCAT test. The median duration of symptoms before initial SeHCAT test was 2.5 (1-30) years. In 13 of 16 patients symptoms persisted, and SeHCAT values remained low and almost identical to the initial value after a median observation time of 88 (51-113) months. Despite initial response to treatment with cholestyramine, six patients had to discontinue treatment because of adverse effects or other compliance problems. In three patients the SeHCAT value showed a considerable increase, and bowel function had correspondingly normalized in these cases.

Conclusion: The study confirms the reliability of the SeHCAT test in diagnosing IBAM. Despite adult onset of symptoms, only a few patients improve after several years' observation. Treatment with cholestyramine is generally effective but not always tolerated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bile Acids and Salts / physiology*
  • Cholestyramine Resin / adverse effects
  • Cholestyramine Resin / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / drug therapy
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Selenium Radioisotopes
  • Taurocholic Acid / analogs & derivatives


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Selenium Radioisotopes
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • Taurocholic Acid
  • 23-seleno-25-homotaurocholic acid