Postprandial gallbladder motor function: refilling and turnover of bile in health and in cholelithiasis

Gastroenterology. 1995 Aug;109(2):582-91. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(95)90348-8.


Background & aims: Impaired gallbladder emptying is implicated in gallstone disease. Ultrasonography and scintigraphy have shown conflicting results because the former is influenced by postprandial refilling, whereas the latter is not influenced by refilling. The aim of this study was to measure postprandial refilling and turnover of bile by combining the two techniques.

Methods: Simultaneous scintigraphy and ultrasonography were used in 14 patients with gallstones and 11 healthy controls. Measurements were performed while the patients were fasting and at 10-minute intervals after a standard meal for 90 minutes, and the measurements were used to calculate postprandial refilling, turnover of bile (in milliliters), and turnover index.

Results: Ultrasonography and scintigraphy provided different gallbladder emptying patterns. Compared with controls, patients with gallstones had impaired emptying by both scintigraphy (P < 0.0001) and ultrasonography (P < 0.01). Postprandial refilling and turnover were both reduced between 60 and 90 minutes (P < 0.05), and the turnover index was markedly reduced (1.8 vs. 3.5; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Simultaneous scintigraphy and ultrasonography provide a new model of gallbladder motor function showing that refilling begins immediately postprandially. In healthy controls, the gallbladder postprandially handles up to six times its basal volume within a period of 90 minutes, but this turnover of bile is markedly reduced in cholelithiasis causing a reduced washout effect of the gallbladder contents, including cholesterol crystals.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bile / metabolism*
  • Cholelithiasis / metabolism
  • Cholelithiasis / physiopathology*
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Gallbladder / diagnostic imaging
  • Gallbladder / physiology*
  • Gallbladder / physiopathology
  • Gallbladder / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Reference Values