The impact of ursodeoxycholic acid on gallstone disease after bariatric surgery: a meta-analysis of randomized control trials

Type Article

Journal Article


N. M. Fearon; E. C. Kearns; C. A. Kennedy; J. B. Conneely; H. M. Heneghan

Year of publication



Surg Obes Relat Dis








BACKGROUND: Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is a bile acid that has been shown to reduce the formation of gallstones after significant weight loss. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to evaluate the impact of UDCA on the incidence of gallstones after bariatric surgery. SETTINGS: An electronic search of PubMed (Medline), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Studies (CENTRAL), Scopus (Elsevier) databases, EMBASE, CINAHL,, and Web of Science. METHODS: A meta-analysis of randomized control trials was performed. The primary outcome was the incidence of gallstones after bariatric surgery. Secondary outcomes included type of operation and time interval to and characteristics associated with gallstone formation. RESULTS: Ten randomized control trials including 2583 patients were included, 1772 patients (68.6%) receiving UDCA and 811 (31.4%) receiving placebo. There was a significant reduction in gallstone formation in patients who received UDCA postoperatively (risk ratio [RR] .36, 95% confidence interval [CI] .22-.41, P  < .00001). The overall prevalence of gallstone formation was 24.7% in the control group compared to 7.3% in the UDCA group. A dose of ≤600 mg/day had a significantly reduced risk of gallstone formation compared to the placebo group (risk ratio .35; 95% CI .24-.53; P 600 mg/day) group (risk ratio .30; 95% CI, .09-1.01, P = .05). CONCLUSIONS: UDCA significantly reduces the risk of both asymptomatic and symptomatic gallstones after bariatric surgery. A dose of 600 mg/day is associated with improved compliance and better outcomes regardless of type of surgery. UDCA should be considered part of a standard postoperative care bundle after bariatric surgery.