Background: Bile acid malabsorption (BAM), a cause of chronic diarrhoea, can be diagnosed by the SeHCAT test. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of SeHCAT testing by assessing the extent of BAM and describing the clinical characteristics in a group of patients with chronic diarrhoea. Clinical outcome after treatment with cholestyramine was also evaluated.
Methods: During a 5-year period (1997-2001) the SeHCAT test was performed in 135 patients in whom a primary programme for diagnostic evaluation of chronic diarrhoea had not revealed a cause. File data from 133 patients could be evaluated.
Results: In 44% of patients, bile acid absorption was normal with SeHCAT retention > or = 15%. Impaired SeHCAT retention was found in 56%. All patients with ileocaecal resections had retention values < 10%. Patients with microscopic colitis presented with BAM in 39%. Only one patient with idiopathic BAM presented with steatorrhoea as opposed to 11 patients with type 1 and 3 BAM. Patients with idiopathic BAM and/or SeHCAT retention values < 5% had the best response to treatment with cholestyramine.
Conclusions: The SeHCAT test is of value in evaluation of patients with chronic diarrhoea as a second-line investigation with a high diagnostic yield. The only a priori parameter to predict BAM was the existence of ileocaecal resections. The result of the SeHCAT test seems to predict the benefit of treatment with cholestyramine.