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Dr. Andrew Rynne
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Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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What causes dark brown urine in an elderly person?

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Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1991

Answered : 3129 Questions

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Posted on Mon, 29 Aug 2016 in General Health
Question: Male age 76. Dark brown urine pale or clay colored feces. Going on for a week.
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Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 48 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Obstruction of bile salts.

Detailed Answer:
Hello and welcome,

What you are describing (brown urine, clay colored stools) is symptomatic of a hepatobiliary obstruction. The liver secretes bile and pigments into the gall bladder. The gall bladder stores these and contracts when you have food in your gut. The bile pigments go into the intestines and color the stool brownish. If there is an obstruction along this path, the pigment doesn't get into your stool, so they appear clay colored. And a form of the pigment is absorbed and ends up in the urine, making it brownish.

One of the most common causes of this is gall stones, but other things can cause this too. For example, a gastroenteritis "stomach flu" can cause this sometimes too.

Evaluation is an abdominal exam, a liver function blood test which should include liver enzyme and bilirubin levels. And possibly an abdominal ultrasound.

I see that you are away from home. Can you get to a clinic to be seen? If you are feeling otherwise well, and will be home soon, you can wait a few days, but otherwise please do go in to see a doctor wherever you are. Especially if you are feeling ill at all, and if you have right upper abdominal discomfort.

In the meantime, avoid alcohol and acetaminophen (Tylenol) - both can be hard on the liver.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 27 minutes later
Assuming it's not gall stones, no pain, how is hepatobiliary treated and is there a treatment.
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Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 49 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Treatment will depend on the cause.

Detailed Answer:
The treatment depends on the cause. If you are on any new medications, that may be the cause and the medication would need to be changed. If the thing preventing the bile from getting out is due to a narrowing of the ducts or a growth, that can be seen on ultrasound, CT, or MRI. The liver enzymes (via blood test) can help show if there is inflammation in the liver, in which case alcohol restriction can help. A complete blood count test can help show if there is an infection going on that is causing the problem.

So the treatment will depend on the cause.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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