[Fetal biliary lithiasis: ultrasonographic diagnosis and clinical interpretation. Report of 3 cases]

Radiol Med. 1997 Apr;93(4):401-4.
[Article in Italian]


Fetal cholelithiasis was first diagnosed in 1983 and since then there have been only few reports about the presence of gallstones in the fetus. Maternal conditions, fetal or obstetrical predisposing risk factors have been proposed to have a causative role, but the pathogenesis of fetal gallstones remains unknown. Clinical sequelae of fetal gallstones are poorly understood as well as the role of fetal cholelithiasis in predisposing the adult to gallstones. We report on 3 patients whose cholelithiasis was diagnosed by obstetrical ultrasonography. Repeated ultrasound scans were performed in each patient until resolution of the US images. The goal of US was to correctly identify the number, size, and US features of the material within the gallbladder. The presence of distal shadowing or comet-tail artifact was assessed. Multiple, small echogenic foci without distal shadowing were recognized in the fetal gallbladder in our patients. Echogenic material was present at the US exams after birth in two patients and disappeared in the second month of life. In the third case echogenic foci disappeared during pregnancy. In all the cases, US showed no biliary tract abnormality, and neither the mothers nor the patients had clinical or laboratory findings consistent with liver or biliary diseases. The Authors discuss a diagnostic protocol to detect and follow-up gallstones in the perinatal period by ultrasonography. In our experience, fetal cholelithiasis confirmed to be a self-limiting disease without complications and did not require any form of therapy. However, a close follow-up is indicated in these patients until spontaneous resolution is demonstrated by US.

MeSH terms

  • Cholelithiasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*