Gallstones are pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder. The majority of gallstones are made up of cholesterol. The rest are made up of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a breakdown pigment of the blood product hemoglobin.
Biliary colic is the pain caused by a gallstone stuck in the bile duct, a tube that carries bile to the small intestine. Sometimes, a stone caught in the bile duct causes cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). Cholangitis is inflammation of the bile duct caused by a gallstone or a bacterial infection.
Many people have gallstones without symptoms, called "silent gallstones." In some cases, these are treated.
Gallstones may cause pain in the upper abdomen. This is sometimes called an attack because it begins suddenly, often after a fatty meal. The pain is severe and may last for 30 minutes or several hours.
Other symptoms include:
Intermittent pain on the right, below the ribcage
Bloating, nausea, and vomiting
Belching, gas, and indigestion
If you have the following symptoms, see your doctor right away:
(yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes)
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include:
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, about 15% of gallstones can be seen on plain x-rays.
—a test that uses sound waves to find gallstones
Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)—an accurate and non-invasive means of evaluating the pancreas and gallbladder
Cholecystogram or cholescintigraphy—x-rays that show movement of the gallbladder and any blockage of the cystic duct that carries bile to the bile duct
Blood tests—may be used to find an infection, jaundice,
, or an obstruction
is the removal of the gallbladder through several small incisions in the abdomen. To view the gallbladder, a small, lighted tube with a camera is inserted into one of the incisions. Surgical instruments are used to remove the gallbladder through one of the other incisions.
Open cholecystectomy is the removal of the gallbladder through a large incision in the abdomen. This is necessary if there is an infection in the abdomen or a great deal of scar tissue.
Your doctor may give you medication to dissolve small stones. It may take months or years for the medication to dissolve all of the stones.
If you are diagnosed with gallstones, follow your doctor's
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a