Cholesterol cholelithiasis: part of a systemic metabolic disease, prone to primary prevention

Agostino Di Ciaula, David Q.H. Wang, Piero Portincasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Introduction: Cholesterol gallstone disease have relationships with various conditions linked with insulin resistance, but also with heart disease, atherosclerosis, and cancer. These associations derive from mechanisms active at a local (i.e. gallbladder, bile) and a systemic level and are involved in inflammation, hormones, nuclear receptors, signaling molecules, epigenetic modulation of gene expression, and gut microbiota. Despite advanced knowledge of these pathways, the available therapeutic options for symptomatic gallstone patients remain limited. Therapy includes oral litholysis by the bile acid ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in a small subgroup of patients at high risk of postdissolution recurrence, or laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which is the therapeutic radical gold standard treatment. Cholecystectomy, however, may not be a neutral event, and potentially generates health problems, including the metabolic syndrome. Areas covered: Several studies on risk factors and pathogenesis of cholesterol gallstone disease, acting at a systemic level have been reviewed through a PubMed search. Authors have focused on primary prevention and novel potential therapeutic strategies. Expert commentary: The ultimate goal appears to target the manageable systemic mechanisms responsible for gallstone occurrence, pointing to primary prevention measures. Changes must target lifestyles, as well as experimenting innovative pharmacological tools in subgroups of patients at high risk of developing gallstones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-171
Number of pages15
JournalExpert Review of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Bile acids
  • FXR
  • GPBAR-1/TGR5
  • cholesterol
  • gallbladder
  • lithogenic bile
  • liver
  • metabolic syndrome
  • obesity
  • pathogenesis
  • primary prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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