To clarify the epidemiological characteristics of gallstone disease in Korea and to evaluate the chronological changes in gallstone disease, the authors performed this first prospective nationwide cooperative study. The subjects were 1263 gallstone patients who were admitted at 19 hospitals in Korea from February to July 1997. Questionnaires were recorded on 1263 patients and gallstones were harvested from 1133 patients. The proportion of patients with gallbladder (GB), common bile duct (CBD), and intrahepatic duct (IHD) stones among total gallstone patients was 64.0%, 21.9%, and 14.1%, respectively. GB stones were categorized as cholesterol (58.1%), black pigment (25.2%), and brown pigment (12.1%) stones. CBD stones were classified as brown pigment (76.1%), cholesterol (18.4%), and black pigment (3.5%) stones. IHD stones were classified as brown pigment (61.4%) and mixed (35.6%) stones. Intrahepatic mixed stones had mean cholesterol and bilirubin contents of 63.4 ± 20.8% and 23.1 ± 9.9%, respectively. In contrast, IHD brown pigment stones had mean cholesterol and bilirubin contents of 35.1 ± 20.5% and 39.6 ± 17.4%, respectively. Our study showed that the type and composition of gallstones in Korea was somewhat different compared with those in the West. This study also demonstrated that there have been chronological changes in the type and composition of gallstones when compared with previous domestic data. Another nationwide cooperative study may be needed to elucidate and confirm the changing pattern of gallstone disease.
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