Natural History of Small Gallbladder Polyps Is Benign: Evidence From a Clinical and Pathogenetic Study

Colecchia, Antonio; Larocca, Anna; Scaioli, Eleonora; Bacchi-Reggiani, Maria Letizia; Di Biase, Anna Rita; Azzaroli, Francesco; Gualandi, Roberta; Simoni, Patrizia; Vestito, Amanda; Festi, Davide
March 2009
American Journal of Gastroenterology;Mar2009, Vol. 104 Issue 3, p624
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVES:Little is known about the natural history and pathogenesis of small gallbladder polyps (<10 mm, usually of the cholesterol type), particularly in Western populations. It is unclear if these polyps and gallstones represent different aspects of the same disease. The aim of this study was to characterize the natural history and pathogenesis of small gallbladder polyps.METHODS:Fifty-six Caucasian patients with small gallbladder polyps, 30 matched gallstone patients, and 30 controls were enrolled in this 5-year prospective study. Patients underwent a symptomatic questionnaire, abdominal ultrasonography, and ultrasonographic evaluation of gallbladder motility at baseline and yearly intervals for 5 years. Cholesterol saturation index, cholesterol crystals in bile, and apolipoprotein E genotype were also determined.RESULTS:Most patients with polyps (mean size: 5.3 mm) were men (61%), asymptomatic, and had multiple polyps (57%). Polyps did not change in 91% of patients during follow-up. No subject experienced biliary pain or underwent cholecystectomy; four developed gallstones. Cholesterol saturation index was higher in patients with polyps or gallstones than in controls (P<0.05). Cholesterol crystals were more frequent in patients with polyps than in controls (P<0.0001) but less common than in gallstone patients (P<0.0001). Polyps and gallstones were associated with nonapolipoprotein E4 phenotypes.CONCLUSIONS:The natural history of small gallbladder polyps was benign, as no patient developed specific symptoms and/or morphological changes in polyps. Consequently, a “wait and see” policy is advisable in these patients. Polyps have some pathogenetic mechanisms in common with gallstones, but few patients developed gallstones.Am J Gastroenterol 2009; 104: 624–629; doi:10.1038/ajg.2008.99; published online 10 February 2009


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