BILIARY tract disease is the fifth leading cause of hospitalization, and 500,000 cholecystectomies are performed each year in the United States. An estimated 20 million persons have either symptomatic or asymptomatic gallstone disease. One million patients with gallstones are discovered each year. The femaleto-male ratio of gallstone disease is 3:1, and the incidence in females in some reports is up to 70%. The cost of gallstone disease in the United States is greater than $1 billion per year. Before 1969, therapy for gallstone disease consisted entirely of surgical procedures. Since then, the promise of dissolution of gallstones has been attended with great interest. Thus, a report from the Council on Scientific Affairs of the status of this new therapy is considered desirable.
A large cooperative study, the National Cooperative Gallstone Study, involved 16 medical centers in the randomized treatment of 916 patients with radiolucent gallstones with either 375