July 1987

Serum Transaminase Levels and Cholescintigraphic Abnormalities in Acute Biliary Tract Obstruction

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Medicine and Radiology, St Vincent Hospital and University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. Dr Smith is now with the Division of Gastroenterology, University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Arch Intern Med. 1987;147(7):1249-1253. doi:10.1001/archinte.1987.00370070063010

• Twenty-five patients presenting to the hospital with symptoms suggestive of acute biliary tract disease were noted to have a characteristic pattern of transaminase and cholescintigraphic abnormalities. There was marked variability in the initial serum transaminase levels; however, 16 patients had aspartate aminotransferase levels greater than 300 IU, and 19 patients had alanine aminotransferase values greater than 300 IU. Regardless of the initial values, there was a 76% (aspartate aminotransferase) and 58% (alanine aminotransferase) reduction in transaminase levels within 72 hours, prior to therapeutic relief of bile duct obstruction. In ten patients with common bile duct obstruction, cholescintigraphy revealed no excretion of technetium Tc-99m-labeled iminodiacetic acid, for up to two hours after injection, into the extra-hepatic biliary tract or small bowel. Common bile duct stones were present in 16 patients, five patients had acute pancreatitis, and four patients were thought to have spontaneously passed common duct stones. We believe that high transaminase levels may be found in patients with obstructive biliary tract disease, sequential measurements of transaminase levels may provide an important diagnostic clue for biliary tract disease, and nonexcretion of radionuclide on cholescintigraphy may be a feature of acute bile duct obstruction.

(Arch Intern Med 1987;147:1249-1253)