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).
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1. Everhart JE. Contributions of obesity and weight loss to gallstone disease. Ann Intern Med 1993;119(10):1029–35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8214980
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11792152
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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2016.03.060 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27063855
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1858735
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7818005
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. https://reference.medscape.com/medline/abstract/21863228
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. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11695-015-1650-6
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4379817/
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21751078
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14578732
Contributed by Kim Schaefer, Harvard medical student, Boston, MA.