Objectives: Conflicting results on the relationship between gallstone disease and the use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been reported, but studies on the effect of NSAID use in populations not selected on the basis of a high risk for gallstone development are still lacking.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study involving 216 patients, regular NSAID users (43 men and 173 women) consecutively admitted to a rheumatology department, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (n = 147), osteoarthritis (n = 49), and ankylosing spondylitis (n = 20). Two-hundred sixteen patients who were not NSAID users, matched for gender, age, and body mass index, consecutively admitted to a medical department for various medical pathologies, acted as a control group. All patients underwent upper abdomen ultrasonography.
Results: The overall prevalence of gallstones was similar in the two groups: 24.0% in NSAID users (15.7% actual stones and 8.3% previous cholecystectomy) and 21.3% in controls (13.9% gallstones and 7.4% cholecystectomy). The prevalence of gallstone disease was significantly higher in women than in men, and the mean age was higher in gallstone patients than in gallstone-free patients, in both groups. No significant differences in type and duration of arthritis condition, type and dose of NSAID taken, and duration of treatment between gallstone patients and gallstone-free patients were found. On logistic regression analysis only female gender, aging, and family history of gallstone disease were significantly associated with the presence of gallstones, whereas no relationship between NSAID use and gallstone disease was found.
Conclusions: Chronic NSAID ingestion does not seem to prevent gallstones in arthritis patients; in these patients gallstone disease is associated with classic risk factors (female gender and age).