Cholesterol gallstone disease is a common clinical condition influenced by genetic factors, increasing age, female gender, and metabolic factors. Although laparoscopic cholecystectomy is currently considered the gold standard in treating patients with symptomatic gallstones, new perspectives regarding medical therapy of cholelithiasis are currently under discussion, also taking into account the pathogenesis of gallstones, the natural history of the disease and the analysis of the overall costs of therapy. A careful selection of patients may lead to successful non-surgical therapy in symptomatic subjects with a functioning gallbladder harboring small radiolucent stones. The classical oral litholysis by ursodeoxycholic acid has been recently paralleled by new experimental observations, suggesting that cholesterol-lowering agents which inhibit cholesterol synthesis (statins) or intestinal cholesterol absorption (ezetimibe), or drugs acting on specific nuclear receptors involved in cholesterol and bile acid homeostasis, might be proposed as additional approaches for treating cholesterol gallstones. In this review we discuss old, recent and future perspectives on medical treatment of cholesterol cholelithiasis.
Keywords: Bile; Bile acids; Cholecystectomy; Dissolution therapy; Ezetimibe; Gallbladder; Gallstones; Nuclear receptors; Statins.