To determine the frequency, risk factors and clinical significance of gallstones in a New Zealand population.
One thousand names were randomly selected from the Christchurch electoral rolls to recruit controls for a study on the prevalence of gallstones in diabetics. Three hundred and eighteen subjects (169 females, 149 males) were recruited and in this study we analyse this control group for gallstone disease. All subjects completed a questionnaire, provided a fasting blood sample and underwent an ultrasound examination of their gallbladder unless they had previously undergone a cholecystectomy.
Overall gallstone disease, defined as previous cholecystectomy or a positive scan for gallstones was seen in 20.75% of the 318 subjects recruited. Gallstone disease was more frequent in females (23.1%) compared to males (18.1%) but this difference was not statistically significant. For both genders there was a significant increase in gallstones with age. On univariate analysis, risk factors for gallstone disease included age, increased body mass index, family history of gallstones and decreased alcohol intake in females. However, only age and family history were significant on multiple logistic regression. There was no difference in the frequency of dyspeptic symptoms or abdominal pain between those with or without gallstones confirmed on scanning. The ratio of cholecystectomy to silent gallstones was higher in females (46.2%) than in males (22.2%).
Gallstones are prevalent in the New Zealand Community (20.8% overall). Risk factors are increasing age and family history. Gallstones detected on scanning were not associated with an increased incidence of dyspeptic symptoms or abdominal pain.