Overweight man [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Four medical centers are seeking patients who have undergone bariatric surgery and have developed gallstones during the past year to determine whether an Israeli-developed drug can dissolve the stones and prevent the need for surgery.
The clinical trials are scheduled to be held at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and the private Assuta Medical Center in Herzliya.
After major weight loss – which often occurs after bariatric (stomach shortening or stomach bypass) surgery but can also result from a strict diet – gallstones often form within months. Many people have to undergo another operation to remove the gallbladder, as stones that are not removed or dissolved can cause serious complications and can even be life threatening.
Dr. Yoav Lurie, a leading gastroenterologist at Shaare Zedek, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that gallstones are more common in women than men, in the overweight and obese, Caucasians, people over the age of 40 and in fertile women, even during pregnancy.
“Gallstones are a major healthcare problem – as it can lead to pain, emergency room visits and infection in the gall bladder and bile ducts,” he explained.
“Infected bile ducts are very sensitive and unforgiving.
Infection and inflammation can also cause biliary pancreatitis and block the pancreas, and this can be dangerous and cause a lot of complications.”
It is possible to live without a gallbladder, but removing it surgically can make bowel movements softer and more frequent than normal.
Kidney stones are sometimes broken up into little pieces by lithotripsy, in which sound waves are aimed at the kidney to pulverize the stones. But this technique, which was used in the 1980s, can damage the kidneys by causing bleeding.
Lithotripsy was thus largely replaced with laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.
As for gallstones, the experimental drug to be tested over the coming year was developed by the late Prof. Tuvia Gilat of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, who was considered the “founding father of Israeli gastroenterology.” His research partner was Prof.
Freddy Konikoff of the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.
The drug, which has not yet been approved by the authorities, is based on a substance that is similar to compounds that exist naturally in the liver. It also protects that organ, said Lurie, adding that the drug is not known to cause any side effects.
Lurie and colleagues in the other three hospitals are inviting people who have had bariatric surgery in the past 12 months and have gallstones to sign up for the clinical trial by calling 052- 3655456, 054-4801995, 050- 2203903 or 054-6739395 for information.