Gallstones (Cholelithiasis)


Gallstones are crystalline calculi (stones) that form inside the gall bladder or bile duct. Gallstones can be large or small; single or multiple.

There are two types of gallstones -

  • Cholesterol stones - They are yellow-green in color and mainly consist of hardened cholesterol. About 80% of gallstones are cholesterol stones.
  • Pigment stones - They are small and dark stones made of bilirubin.

Most of the gallstones do not cause any symptoms. A typical gallstone attack is characterized by a steady and severe pain in the upper abdomen. Abdominal bloating, low grade fever with chills, indigestion and belching may also be present.

Ultrasound is the most sensitive and specific test for diagnosis of gallstones.

Gallstones are managed primarily with observation i.e. no treatment if there are no symptoms. Symptomatic gallstones are best treated by surgical removal of the gall bladder (cholecystectomy). Less commonly used treatment options include sphincterotomy and extraction of gallstones, dissolution of gallstones with oral medications and extra-corporeal shock-wave lithotripsy (ESWL).

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