Biliary sludge and hyperbilirubinemia associated with ceftriaxone in an adult: case report and review of the literature

Pharmacotherapy. 2005 Oct;25(10):1389-95. doi: 10.1592/phco.2005.25.10.1389.


Ceftriaxone is a commonly used third-generation cephalosporin that has antimicrobial activity against many gram-positive and gram-negative organisms. Generally, ceftriaxone is a safe antibiotic; however, symptomatic biliary sludge has been reported in rare instances, most of which have involved children. It is uncommon for ceftriaxone to cause increases in laboratory indexes, such as bilirubin levels. We describe the case of a 53-year-old man who was treated with intravenous ceftriaxone 2 g every 12 hours. After 7 days of therapy, the patient's liver function test results, including total, direct, and indirect bilirubin levels, increased significantly from baseline, and the patient became jaundiced. A right upper quadrant ultrasound examination revealed biliary sludge and cholelithiasis without sonographic evidence of cholecystitis. Ceftriaxone was thought to be the responsible agent, and it was discontinued. The patient's jaundice subsided, and his liver function test results improved, returning to baseline within 14 days. Clinicians need to be aware of the association of ceftriaxone and biliary pseudolithiasis and hyperbilirubinemia, and monitor accordingly.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bile / diagnostic imaging
  • Bile / drug effects*
  • Ceftriaxone / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ultrasonography


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ceftriaxone