A major criterion for the selection of patients with gallstones for treatment with chenodeoxycholic acid is the radiographic demonstration of lucent gallstones. In this study, we sought to evaluate the degree of selectivity of that criterion for distinguishing patients with cholesterol stones from those with pigment stones and to define the determinants of stone lucency or opaqueness. Of 92 lucent stones, 14% were pigment stones; and of 18 of opaque stones, 33% were cholesterol. Thus, the criterion of stone lucency allows inclusion of a significant number of subjects (14%) with lucent pigment stones, which may account for about one-half of the reported 33% incidence of treatment failures with chenodeoxycholic acid. Conversely, of patients with opaque stones, the one-third with cholesterol stones would be excluded from chenodeoxycholic acid treatment. Calcium is the major metal of both types of stones. However, opaque stones contain 6 times more calcium than lucent stones, which accounts for the difference in radiographic appearance.
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