A Reversed Sequence of Gallbladder and Small Bowel Visualization During Cholescintigraphy: Its Relationship to Chronic Cholecystitis

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During the first hour of cholescintigraphy, both the gallbladder and small bowel are visualized in the majority of normal subjects and patients with chronic cholecystitis. Usually, radioactive bile flows initially into the gallbladder followed by passage into the small bowel. To determine whether a reversed sequence of bile flow (i.e., small bowel followed by gallbladder) could serve as an indicator of chronic cholecystitis, 141 hepatobiliary scans were reviewed retrospectively with attention to the relative order of gallbladder and small bowel appearance during the first hour. The scintigraphic findings were correlated with results from real-time gallbladder ultrasonography in all 141 patients and gallbladder histopathology in a subset of 35 (25%). The specificity of a reversed sequence for chronic cholecystitis was 79% using ultrasonography and 100% for histopathology. This phenomenon likely reflects altered biliary flow dynamics secondary to recurrent inflammation and fibrosis. In patients referred for possible biliary tract disease, visualization of the gallbladder after the small bowel appears to predict chronic cholecystitis.

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