My patient with history of gastric bypass surgery now presents with right upper quadrant pain and gallstones. Is there a connection between gastric bypass surgery and gallstones?

An increased risk of new gallstones following gastric bypass surgery (GBS) has been reported by several studies (1-5).  More specifically, a study involving patients with baseline normal gallbladder ultrasound found that at 6 months following GBS 36% of patients developed gallstones and 13% developed sludge (4).  Similarly, a gallstone formation rate of 32% has been reported after GBS among patients who did not receive prophylactic treatment (5). 

New cholelithiasis following GBS may be largely attributed to rapid weight loss following this procedure, not the surgery itself or its related anatomical changes. Of interest, rapid weight loss, even by dieting, has been shown to increase the risk of gallstones (6).

However, overweight patients also have an increased risk of developing cholelithiasis at baseline, in part related to increased cholesterol secretion resulting in bile supersaturation with cholesterol (1).  Though weight loss may be expected to decrease this risk, rapid weight loss is thought to change the bile composition towards higher concentrations of calcium and cholesterol and increased production of gallbladder mucin, contributing to the pathogenicity of gallstone formation (5). 

In light of these findings, some have recommended routine prophylactic cholecystectomy as part of the GBS (7,8),  while others have argued against it (9,10), largely due to different observed rates of post-GBS symptomatic gallstones requiring cholecystectomies in various studies. Of note, post-operative ursodiol (ursodeoxycholic acid) may also reduce the incidence of post-GBS cholelithiasis (5,11). 

1. Everhart JE. Contributions of obesity and weight loss to gallstone disease. Ann Intern Med 1993;119(10):1029–35.
2. Wudel LJ, Wright JK, Debelak JP, Allos TM, Shyr Y, Chapman WC. Prevention of gallstone formation in morbidly obese patients undergoing rapid weight loss: Results of a randomized controlled pilot study. J Surg Res 2002;102(1):50–6.
3. Manatsathit W, Leelasincharoen P, Al-Hamid H, Szpunar S, Hawasli A. The incidence of cholelithiasis after sleeve gastrectomy and its association with weight loss: A two-centre retrospective cohort study. Int J Surg [Internet] 2016;30:13–8. Available from:
4. Shiffman M, Sugerman H, Kellum J, Brewer W, Moore E. Gallstone formation after rapid weight loss: a prospective study in patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery for treatment of morbid obesity. Am J Gastroenterol 1991;(86):1000–5.
5. Sugerman H, Brewer W, Shiffman M, et al. A Multicenter, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Double-Blind, Prospective Trial of Prophylactic Ursodiol for the Prevention of Gallstone Formation Rapid Weight Loss. Am Jourmal Surg 1995;169(January):91–7.

6. de Oliverira CIB, Chaim EA, da Silva BB. Impact of rapid weight reduction on risk of cholelithiasis after bariatric surgery. Obesity Surgery 2003;13:625-8.
7. Tarantino I, Warschkow R, Steffen T, Bisang P, Schultes B, Thurnheer M. Is routine cholecystectomy justified in severely obese patients undergoing a laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure? A comparative cohort study. Obes Surg 2011;21(12):1870–8.
8. Amstutz S, Michel JM, Kopp S, Egger B. Potential Benefits of Prophylactic Cholecystectomy in Patients Undergoing Bariatric Bypass Surgery. Obes Surg 2015;25(11):2054–60.
9. Karadeniz M, Gorgun M, Kara C. The evaluation of gallstone formation in patients undergoing Roux-en -Y gastric bypass due to morbid obesity. Turkish J Surg 2014;30(2):76–9.
10. D’Hondt M, Sergeant G, Deylgat B, Devriendt D, Van Rooy F, Vansteenkiste F. Prophylactic Cholecystectomy, a Mandatory Step in Morbidly Obese Patients Undergoing Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass? J Gastrointest Surg 2011;15(9):1532–6.
11. Miller K, Hell E, Lang B, Lengauer E. Gallstone Formation Prophylaxis after Gastric Restrictive Procedures for Weight Loss: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial. Ann Surg 2003;238(5):697–702.

Contributed by Kim Schaefer, Harvard medical student, Boston, MA. 

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My patient with history of gastric bypass surgery now presents with right upper quadrant pain and gallstones. Is there a connection between gastric bypass surgery and gallstones?

Why does my patient with alcoholic cirrhosis have macrocytic anemia?

Macrocytic anemia is commonly due to folate or vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency.1 Deficiency in these vitamins can be related broadly to poor intake, poor absorption, or drug interference. In patients with chronic excess alcohol consumption, both intake and/or absorption of these vitamins may be affected.

Although folate deficiency is increasingly rare in many developed countries due to mandatory folate fortification of flour and uncooked-grain, alcohol use can be associated with malnourishment severe enough to causes folate deficiency. In addition, alcohol itself can alter folate metabolism and absorption.  More specifically, chronic alcohol consumption has been shown to be associated with decreased folate absorption by the small intestine, altered intrahepatic processing and distribution between the systemic and enterohepatic folate circulations as well as increased folate urinary excretion. 2 Though uncommon,3 alcohol can also be associated with a food B12 malabsorption process, whereby despite adequate intake, B12 is not released or absorbed from food. 4

But what if serum folate and B12 levels return as normal in our patient with macrocytosis? It turns out that alcohol consumption, independent of folate or B12 deficiency, may also cause macrocytosis. 5 Though the exact mechanism is unknown, it may be related to alcohol’s direct toxicity or that of its metabolites; alcohol is oxidized to acetaldehyde, which affects membranes of red blood cells (RBCs) and their precursors by forming adducts with erythroid proteins,6 and interfering with cell division.7 Interestingly, alcohol-related macrocytosis may appear before anemia is detected and can resolve within 2-4 months of abstinence.

In addition to alcohol, cirrhosis itself may be associated with macrocytic anemia caused by lipid deposition on RBC membranes.1

See also a related pearl at   


  1. Hoffbrand V, Provan D. ABC of clinical haematology: macrocytic anaemias. BMJ 2011;314(7078):430–430.
  2. Medici V, Halsted CH. Folate, alcohol, and liver disease. Mol Nutr Food Res 2013;57(4):596–606.
  3. Bode C, Bode CJ. Effect of alcohol consumption on the gut. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol [Internet] 2003;17(4):575–92.
  4. Dali-Youcef N, Andrès E. An update on cobalamin deficiency in adults. QJM 2009;102(1):17–28.
  5. Savage DG, Ogundipe A, Allen RH, Stabler SP, Lindenbaum J. Etiology and diagnostic Evaluation of macrocytosis. Am J Med Sci [Internet] 2000;319(6):343–52.
  6. Latvala J, Parkkila S, Melkko J, Niemelä O. Acetaldehyde adducts in blood and bone marrow of patients with ethanol-induced erythrocyte abnormalities. Mol Med 2001;7(6):401–5.
  7. Wickramasinghe SN, Malik F. Acetaldehyde causes a prolongation of the doubling time and an increase in the modal volume of cells in culture. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1986;10(3):350–4.


Contributed by Kim Schaefer, Harvard medical student, Boston, MA

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Why does my patient with alcoholic cirrhosis have macrocytic anemia?

Is there a connection between my patient’s blood type and risk of thromboembolic events?

There seems to be, given the weight of the evidence to date suggesting that non-blood group O may be associated with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF)-related peripheral cardioembolic complications, myocardial infarction (MI) and ischemic stroke. 1-4

A 2015 retrospective Mayo Clinic study involving patients with NVAF adjusted for CHADS2 score found significantly lower rate of peripheral embolization in those with blood group O compared to those with other blood groups combined (3% vs 2%, O.R. 0.66, 95% CI, 0.5-0.8); rates of cerebral thromboembolic events were not significantly different between the 2 groups, however. 1

A 2008 systematic review and meta-analysis of studies spanning over 45 years reported a significant association between non-O blood group and MI, peripheral vascular disease, cerebral ischemia of arterial origin, and venous thromboembolism.2 Interestingly, the association was not significant for angina pectoris or for MI when only prospective studies were included.  Some studies have reported that the association between VWF and the risk of cardiovascular mortality may be independent of blood group. 5,6

Although the apparent lower risk of thromboembolic conditions in O blood group patients may be due to lower levels of von Willebrand factor (VWF) and factor VIII in this population 1,4, other pathways likely  play a role.7  

As for why the rate of peripheral (but not cerebral) thromboembolic events in NVAP is affected by blood group, it is suggested that, because of their size, larger clots (facilitated by lower VWF levels) may bypass the carotid and vertebral orifices in favor of their continuation downstream to the “peripheral bed”.1

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  1. Blustin JM, McBane RD, Mazur M, et al. The association between thromboembolic complications and blood group in patients with atrial fibrillation. Mayo Clin Proc 2015;90;216-23.
  2. Wu O, Bayoumi N, Vickers MA, et al. ABO (H) groups and vascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Thromb Haemostasis 2008;6:62-9.
  3. Medalie JH, Levene C, Papier C, et al. Blood groups, myocardial infarction, and angina pectoris among 10,000 adult males. N Engl J Med 1971;285:1348-53.
  4. Franchini M, Capra F, Targher G, et al. Relationship between ABO blood group and von Willebrand factor levels: from biology to clinical implications. Thrombosis Journal 2007, 5:14.
  5. Meade TW, Cooper JA, Stirling Y, et al. Factor VIII, ABO blood group and the incidence of ischaemic heart disease. Br J Haematol 1994;88:601-7.
  6. Jager A, van Hinsbergh VW, Kostense PJ, et al. von Willebrand factor, C-reactive protein, and 5-year mortality in diabetic and nondiabetic subjects: the Hoorn Study. Arterioscl Thromb Vasc Biol 1999;19:3071-78.
  7. Sode BF, Allin KH, Dahl M, et al. Risk of venous thromboembolism and myocardial infarction associated with factor V Leiden and prothrombin mutations and blood type. CMAJ 2013.DOI:10.1503/cmaj.121636.
Is there a connection between my patient’s blood type and risk of thromboembolic events?

Should I routinely treat my patients with acute COPD exacerbation with antibiotics?

The answer is “NO”! With an estimated 20% to 50% of acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations attributed to noninfectious factors (1,2), routine inclusion of antibiotics in the treatment of this condition is not only unnecessary but potentially harmful.

Although the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines recommends the use of antibiotics in patients who have dyspnea, increased sputum volume, and increased sputum purulence—or at least 2 of these 3 criteria when sputum purulence is one of them (3)—, these recommendations are not based on robust evidence and have not been widely corroborated (2,4-6).

That’s why the findings of a 2019 New England Journal of Medicine study (PACE) supporting the use of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) as an adjunctive test in COPD exacerbation is particularly welcome (1). In this multicenter randomized controlled trial performed in the U.K., the following CRP guidelines (arrived from prior studies) were provided to primary care clinicians to be used as part of their decision making in determining which patients with COPD exacerbation may not need antibiotic therapy:

• CRP less than 20 mg/L: Antibiotics unlikely to be beneficial
• CRP 20-40 mg/L: Antibiotics may be beneficial, mainly if purulent sputum is present
• CRP greater than 40 mg/L: Antibiotics likely to be beneficial

Adoption of these guidelines resulted in significantlly fewer patients being placed on antibiotics without evidence of harm over a 4-week follow-up period (1).  Despite its inherent limitations (eg, single country, outpatient setting), CRP testing may be a step in the right direction in curbing unnecessary use of antibiotics in COPD exacerbation.  


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1. Butler CC, Gillespie D, White P, et al. C-reactive protein testing to guide antibiotic prescribing for COPD exacerbations. N Engl J Med 2019;381:111-20.
2. Llor C, Moragas A, Hernandez S, et al. Efficacy of antibiotic therapy for acute exacerbations of mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2012;186:716-23.
3. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. GOLD, 2019 (
4. Brett AS, Al-Hasan MN. COPD exacerbations—A target for antibiotic stewardship. N Engl J Med 2018;381:174-75.
5. Miravitlles M, Moragas A, Hernandez S, et al. Is it possible to identify exacerbations of mild to moderate COPD that do not require antibiotic treatment? Chest 2013;144:1571-7.
6. Van Vezen P, Ter Riet G, Bresser P, et al. Doxycycline for outpatient-treated acute exacerbations of COPD: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med 2017;5:492-9.

Should I routinely treat my patients with acute COPD exacerbation with antibiotics?