Ursodeoxycholic acid, 250 to 300, 500 to 600, or 900 to 1000 mg/d, was given orally for 6 to 38 months to 53 patients with cholesterol gallstones and functioning gallbladders. Forty-two patients had greater than 50% reduction in gallstone volume, number, or both, without apparent dose dependence and 27 of these patients had complete gallstone dissolution. Results of laboratory studies including liver function tests were not affected adversely and biliary lithocholic acid concentration did not increase during therapy. Most biliary symptoms seemed to disappear within 3 months and no patient developed diarrhea. Large diameter and increased number of gallstones were found to hinder dissolution. The percentage of biliary ursodeoxycholic acid increased with increasing dose and reached a maximum of 50% to 60% of total bile acids at a dose of about 10 to 12 mg/kg body weight. d. Biliary lithogenic index was reduced significantly during treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid, 500 to 600 and 900 to 1000 mg/d. Thus, ursodeoxycholic acid appears to be a safe and effective alternative to surgery in selected patients with gallstones.