INTRODUCTION: Bile acid (BA) diarrhea is the cause in ∼26% of chronic unexplained (nonbloody) diarrhea (CUD) based on SeHCAT testing. To assess fecal BA excretion and healthcare utilization in patients with CUD. METHODS: In a retrospective review of 1,071 consecutive patients with CUD who completed 48-hour fecal BA testing, we analyzed the symptoms, diagnostic tests performed, and final diagnoses. RESULTS: After 135 patients were excluded because of mucosal diseases, increased BA excretion was identified in 476 (51%) of the 936 patients with CUD: 29% with selective increase in primary BA and 22% with increased total BA excretion (35% with normal primary BA excretion). There were no differences in demographics, clinical symptoms, or history of cholecystectomy in patients with elevated total or selective primary fecal BA excretion compared with patients with normal excretion. Before the 48-hour fecal BA excretion test was performed, patients completed on average 1.2 transaxial imaging, 2.6 endoscopic procedures, and 1.6 miscellaneous tests/person. Less than 10% of these tests identified the etiology of CUD. Total fecal BAs >3,033 µmol/48 hour or primary BAs >25% had a 93% negative predictive value to exclude mucosal disease. Among patients with increased fecal BA excretion, >70% reported diarrhea improved with BA sequestrant compared with 26% with normal fecal BA excretion. Patients with selective elevation in primary fecal BAs were 3.1 times (95% confidence interval, 1.5-6.63) more likely to respond to BA sequestrant therapy compared with those with elevated total fecal BAs. DISCUSSION: Increased fecal BA excretion is frequent (51%) in patients with CUD. Early 48-hour fecal BA evaluation has the potential to decrease healthcare utilization in CUD.
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