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The gallbladder and small intestine are reservoirs for the bile acid pool during its enterohepatic circulation and, as such, may regulate biliary secretion of bile acid. During studies of biliary bile acid secretion, a stimulus to gallbladder contraction is continuously infused into the duodenum. Under these conditions, it is assumed that the gallbladder is tonically contracted and that the rate of bile acid secretion into the duodenum equals the hepatic bile acid secretion rate. However, secretion rates vary by as much as 100%, depending upon which of two standard stimuli is used. Therefore, we studied the role of gallbladder emptying and small intestinal transit in determining biliary lipid secretion rate and composition during infusion of these stimuli in five healthy subjects. Each subject was studied with a liquid formula containing 40% of calories as fat, and with an amino acid solution for 10 h. Bile acid, phospholipid, cholesterol, and markers were measured in duodenal bile and hourly secretion rates were calculated by marker dilution technique. Real-time gallbladder sonographs and serum pancreatic polypeptide levels were obtained every 30 min. Small bowel transit time was estimated levels were obtained every 30 min. Small bowel transit time was estimated by the breath hydrogen response after giving lactulose intraduodenally.
During liquid formula infusion, gallbladder emptying was more complete, small intestinal transit was faster, and pancreatic polypeptide levels were higher. Secretion rates of all lipids were greater and molar percent cholesterol was lower. For the combined data from both infusions, the secretory relationships of cholesterol to bile acid, cholesterol to phospholipid, and phospholipid to bile acid were curvilinear.
We conclude that more complete gallbladder emptying and faster intestinal transit increase the enterohepatic cycling of bile acids and lower the molar percent cholesterol of bile. Some of the fluctuation observed in biliary lipid secretion rates, especially during amino acid infusion, is due to gallbladder refilling and emptying.