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A New Paradigm in Gallstones Diseases and Marked Elevation of Transaminases: An Observational Study

Sara Campos, Nuno Silva, Armando Carvalho


Background. In clinical practice, it is assumed that a severe rise in transaminases is caused by ischemic, viral or toxic hepatitis. Nevertheless, cases of biliary obstruction have increasingly been associated with significant hypertransaminemia. With this study, we sought to determine the true etiology of marked rise in transaminases levels, in the context of an emergency department. Material and methods. We retrospectively identified all patients admitted to the emergency unit at Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2010, displaying an increase of at least one of the transaminases by more than 15 times. All patient records were analyzed in order to determine the cause of hypertransaminemia. Results. We analyzed 273 patients – 146 males, mean age 65.1 ± 19.4 years. The most frequently etiology found for marked hypertransaminemia was pancreaticobiliary acute disease (n = 142;39.4%), mostly lithiasic (n = 113;79.6%), followed by malignancy (n = 74;20.6%), ischemic hepatitis (n = 61;17.0%), acute primary hepatocellular disease (n = 50;13.9%) and muscle damage (n = 23;6.4%). We were not able to determine a diagnosis for 10 cases. There were 27 cases of recurrence in the lithiasic pancreaticobiliary pathology group. Recurrence was more frequent in the group of patients who had not been submitted to early cholecystectomy after the first episode of biliary obstruction (p = 0.014). The etiology of hypertransaminemia varied according to age, cholestasis and glutamic-pyruvic transaminase values. Conclusion. Pancreaticobiliary lithiasis is the main cause of marked hypertransaminemia. Hence, it must be considered when dealing with such situations. Not performing cholecystectomy early on, after the first episode of biliary obstruction, may lead to recurrence.

Key words. Transaminases, Biliary obstruction, Ischemic hepatitis, Viral hepatitis, Toxic hepatitis

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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