Gallstone
Overview
 
A gallstone is a crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

line concretion
Enterolith
An enterolith is a mineral concretion or calculus formed anywhere in the gastrointestinal system. Enteroliths are uncommon and usually incidental findings but, once found, they require at a minimum watchful waiting...

 formed within the gallbladder
Gallbladder
In vertebrates the gallbladder is a small organ that aids mainly in fat digestion and concentrates bile produced by the liver. In humans the loss of the gallbladder is usually easily tolerated....

 by accretion of bile
Bile
Bile or gall is a bitter-tasting, dark green to yellowish brown fluid, produced by the liver of most vertebrates, that aids the process of digestion of lipids in the small intestine. In many species, bile is stored in the gallbladder and upon eating is discharged into the duodenum...

 components. These calculi
Calculus (medicine)
A calculus is a stone that forms in an organ or duct of the body. Formation of calculi is known as lithiasis...

 are formed in the gallbladder, but may pass distally into other parts of the biliary tract such as the cystic duct
Cystic duct
The cystic duct is the short duct that joins the gall bladder to the common bile duct. It usually lies next to the cystic artery. It is of variable length...

, common bile duct
Common bile duct
The common bile duct is a tube-like anatomic structure in the human gastrointestinal tract. It is formed by the union of the common hepatic duct and the cystic duct . It is later joined by the pancreatic duct to form the ampulla of Vater...

, pancreatic duct
Pancreatic duct
The pancreatic duct, or duct of Wirsung , is a duct joining the pancreas to the common bile duct to supply pancreatic juices which aid in digestion provided by the "exocrine pancreas"...

, or the ampulla of Vater.

Presence of gallstones in the gallbladder may lead to acute cholecystitis
Cholecystitis
-Signs and symptoms:Cholecystitis usually presents as a pain in the right upper quadrant. This is known as biliary colic. This is initially intermittent, but later usually presents as a constant, severe pain. During the initial stages, the pain may be felt in an area totally separate from the site...

, an inflammatory
Inflammation
Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process...

 condition characterized by retention of bile in the gallbladder
Cholestasis
In medicine, cholestasis is a condition where bile cannot flow from the liver to the duodenum. The two basic distinctions are an obstructive type of cholestasis where there is a mechanical blockage in the duct system such as can occur from a gallstone or malignancy and metabolic types of...

 and often secondary infection
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

 by intestinal microorganisms
Gut flora
Gut flora consists of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of animals and is the largest reservoir of human flora. In this context, gut is synonymous with intestinal, and flora with microbiota and microflora....

, predominantly Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

and Bacteroides
Bacteroides
Bacteroides is a genus of Gram-negative, bacillus bacteria. Bacteroides species are non-endospore-forming, anaerobes, and may be either motile or non-motile, depending on the species. The DNA base composition is 40-48% GC. Unusual in bacterial organisms, Bacteroides membranes contain sphingolipids...

species.
Encyclopedia
A gallstone is a crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

line concretion
Enterolith
An enterolith is a mineral concretion or calculus formed anywhere in the gastrointestinal system. Enteroliths are uncommon and usually incidental findings but, once found, they require at a minimum watchful waiting...

 formed within the gallbladder
Gallbladder
In vertebrates the gallbladder is a small organ that aids mainly in fat digestion and concentrates bile produced by the liver. In humans the loss of the gallbladder is usually easily tolerated....

 by accretion of bile
Bile
Bile or gall is a bitter-tasting, dark green to yellowish brown fluid, produced by the liver of most vertebrates, that aids the process of digestion of lipids in the small intestine. In many species, bile is stored in the gallbladder and upon eating is discharged into the duodenum...

 components. These calculi
Calculus (medicine)
A calculus is a stone that forms in an organ or duct of the body. Formation of calculi is known as lithiasis...

 are formed in the gallbladder, but may pass distally into other parts of the biliary tract such as the cystic duct
Cystic duct
The cystic duct is the short duct that joins the gall bladder to the common bile duct. It usually lies next to the cystic artery. It is of variable length...

, common bile duct
Common bile duct
The common bile duct is a tube-like anatomic structure in the human gastrointestinal tract. It is formed by the union of the common hepatic duct and the cystic duct . It is later joined by the pancreatic duct to form the ampulla of Vater...

, pancreatic duct
Pancreatic duct
The pancreatic duct, or duct of Wirsung , is a duct joining the pancreas to the common bile duct to supply pancreatic juices which aid in digestion provided by the "exocrine pancreas"...

, or the ampulla of Vater.

Presence of gallstones in the gallbladder may lead to acute cholecystitis
Cholecystitis
-Signs and symptoms:Cholecystitis usually presents as a pain in the right upper quadrant. This is known as biliary colic. This is initially intermittent, but later usually presents as a constant, severe pain. During the initial stages, the pain may be felt in an area totally separate from the site...

, an inflammatory
Inflammation
Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process...

 condition characterized by retention of bile in the gallbladder
Cholestasis
In medicine, cholestasis is a condition where bile cannot flow from the liver to the duodenum. The two basic distinctions are an obstructive type of cholestasis where there is a mechanical blockage in the duct system such as can occur from a gallstone or malignancy and metabolic types of...

 and often secondary infection
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

 by intestinal microorganisms
Gut flora
Gut flora consists of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of animals and is the largest reservoir of human flora. In this context, gut is synonymous with intestinal, and flora with microbiota and microflora....

, predominantly Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

and Bacteroides
Bacteroides
Bacteroides is a genus of Gram-negative, bacillus bacteria. Bacteroides species are non-endospore-forming, anaerobes, and may be either motile or non-motile, depending on the species. The DNA base composition is 40-48% GC. Unusual in bacterial organisms, Bacteroides membranes contain sphingolipids...

species. Presence of gallstones in other parts of the biliary tract can cause obstruction of the bile duct
Bile duct
A bile duct is any of a number of long tube-like structures that carry bile.Bile, required for the digestion of food, is excreted by the liver into passages that carry bile toward the hepatic duct, which joins with the cystic duct to form the common bile duct, which opens into the intestine.The...

s, which can lead to serious conditions such as ascending cholangitis
Ascending cholangitis
Ascending cholangitis or acute cholangitis is an infection of the bile duct , usually caused by bacteria ascending from its junction with the duodenum...

 or pancreatitis
Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It occurs when pancreatic enzymes that digest food are activated in the pancreas instead of the small intestine. It may be acute – beginning suddenly and lasting a few days, or chronic – occurring over many years...

. Either of these two conditions can be life-threatening, and are therefore considered to be medical emergencies
Medical emergency
A medical emergency is an injury or illness that is acute and poses an immediate risk to a person's life or long term health. These emergencies may require assistance from another person, who should ideally be suitably qualified to do so, although some of these emergencies can be dealt with by the...

.

Definitions

Presence of stones in the gallbladder is referred to as cholelithiasis (from the Greek: chol-, "bile" + lith-, "stone" + iasis-, "process"). If gallstones migrate into the ducts of the biliary tract, the condition is referred to as choledocholithiasis (from the Greek: chol-, "bile" + docho-, "duct" + lith-, "stone" + iasis-, "process"). Choledocholithiasis is frequently associated with obstruction of the biliary tree, which in turn can lead to acute ascending cholangitis
Ascending cholangitis
Ascending cholangitis or acute cholangitis is an infection of the bile duct , usually caused by bacteria ascending from its junction with the duodenum...

 (from the Greek: chol-, "bile + ang-, "vessel" + itis-, "inflammation"), a serious infection of the bile ducts. Gallstones within the ampulla of Vater can obstruct the exocrine
Exocrine gland
Exocrine glands are a type of ductal glands that secrete their products into ducts that lead directly into the external environment...

 system of the pancreas
Pancreas
The pancreas is a gland organ in the digestive and endocrine system of vertebrates. It is both an endocrine gland producing several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin, as well as a digestive organ, secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that assist...

, which in turn can result in pancreatitis.

Characteristics and composition

Gallstones can vary in size and shape from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder may contain a single large stone or many smaller ones. Pseudoliths, sometime referred to as sludge, are thick secretion
Secretion
Secretion is the process of elaborating, releasing, and oozing chemicals, or a secreted chemical substance from a cell or gland. In contrast to excretion, the substance may have a certain function, rather than being a waste product...

s that may be present within the gallbladder, either alone or in conjunction with fully formed gallstones. The clinical presentation is similar to that of cholelithiasis. The composition of gallstones is affected by age, diet and ethnicity
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

. On the basis of their composition, gallstones can be divided into the following types:

Cholesterol stones
Cholesterol
Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

 stones vary in color from light-yellow to dark-green or brown and are oval 2 to 3 cm in length, often having a tiny dark central spot. To be classified as such, they must be at least 80% cholesterol by weight (or 70%, according to the Japanese classification system).

Pigment stones
Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin
Bilirubin
Bilirubin is the yellow breakdown product of normal heme catabolism. Heme is found in hemoglobin, a principal component of red blood cells. Bilirubin is excreted in bile and urine, and elevated levels may indicate certain diseases...

 and calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

 salts that are found in bile. They contain less than 20% of cholesterol (or 30%, according to the Japanese classification system).

Mixed stones
Mixed gallstones typically contain 20–80% cholesterol (or 30–70%, according to the Japanese classification system). Other common constituents are calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

, palmitate phosphate, bilirubin, and other bile pigments
Bilin (biochemistry)
Bilins, bilanes or bile pigments are biological pigments formed in many organisms as a metabolic product of certain porphyrins. Bilin was named as a bile pigment of mammals, but can also be found in lower vertebrates, invertebrates, as well as red algae, green plants and cyanobacteria...

. Because of their calcium content, they are often radiographically
Radiography
Radiography is the use of X-rays to view a non-uniformly composed material such as the human body. By using the physical properties of the ray an image can be developed which displays areas of different density and composition....

 visible.

Signs and symptoms

Gallstones may be asymptomatic, even for years. These gallstones are called "silent stones" and do not require treatment. Symptoms commonly begin to appear once the stones reach a certain size (>8 mm). A characteristic symptom of gallstones is a "gallstone attack"
Biliary colic
Biliary colic is pain associated with irritation of the viscera secondary to cholecystitis and gallstones. Unlike renal colic, the phrase 'biliary colic' refers to the actual cholelithiasis....

, in which a person may experience intense pain in the upper-right side of the abdomen, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, that steadily increases for approximately 30 minutes to several hours. A patient may also experience referred pain
Referred pain
Referred pain is pain perceived at a location other than the site of the painful stimulus. An example is the case of ischemia brought on by a myocardial infarction , where pain is often felt in the neck, shoulders, and back rather than in the chest, the site of the injury...

 between the shoulder blades
Scapula
In anatomy, the scapula , omo, or shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the humerus with the clavicle ....

 or below the right shoulder. These symptoms may resemble those of a "kidney stone attack"
Renal colic
Renal colic is a type of abdominal pain commonly caused by kidney stones.-Presentation:The pain typically begins in the abdomen and often radiates to the hypochondrium or the groin. The pain is often colicky due to ureteric peristalsis, but may be constant...

. Often, attacks occur after a particularly fatty meal and almost always happen at night. Other symptoms include abdominal bloating, intolerance of fatty foods, belching, gas, and indigestion.

A positive Murphy's sign
Murphy's sign
In medicine, Murphy's sign refers to a maneuver during a physical examination as part of the abdominal examination and a finding elicited in ultrasonography. It is useful for differentiating pain in the right upper quadrant...

 is a common finding on physical examination
Physical examination
Physical examination or clinical examination is the process by which a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease. It generally follows the taking of the medical history — an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient...

.

Causes

Gallstone risk factors include overweight, age near or above 40, female, or pre-menopausal
Menopause
Menopause is a term used to describe the permanent cessation of the primary functions of the human ovaries: the ripening and release of ova and the release of hormones that cause both the creation of the uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining...

; the condition is more prevalent in caucasians than in people of other races. A lack of melatonin
Melatonin
Melatonin , also known chemically as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring compound found in animals, plants, and microbes...

 could significantly contribute to gallbladder stones, as melatonin both inhibits cholesterol secretion from the gallbladder, enhances the conversion of cholesterol to bile, and is an antioxidant, capable of reducing oxidative stress to the gallbladder. Researchers believe that gallstones may be caused by a combination of factors, including inherited body chemistry, body weight, gallbladder motility (movement), and perhaps diet. The absence of such risk factors does not, however, preclude the formation of gallstones.

No clear relationship has been proven between diet and gallstone formation; however, low-fiber, high-cholesterol diets and diets high in starchy foods have been suggested as contributing to gallstone formation. Other nutritional factors that may increase risk of gallstones include rapid weight loss, constipation, eating fewer meals per day, eating less fish, and low intakes of the nutrients folate, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin C. On the other hand, wine and whole-grain bread may decrease the risk of gallstones. Pigment gallstones are most commonly seen in the developing world. Risk factors for pigment stones include hemolytic anemia
Hemolytic anemia
Hemolytic anemia is a form of anemia due to hemolysis, the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells , either in the blood vessels or elsewhere in the human body . It has numerous possible causes, ranging from relatively harmless to life-threatening...

s (such as sickle-cell disease
Sickle-cell disease
Sickle-cell disease , or sickle-cell anaemia or drepanocytosis, is an autosomal recessive genetic blood disorder with overdominance, characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. Sickling decreases the cells' flexibility and results in a risk of various...

 and hereditary spherocytosis
Hereditary spherocytosis
Hereditary spherocytosis is a genetically-transmitted form of spherocytosis, an auto-hemolytic anemia characterized by the production of red blood cells that are sphere-shaped rather than bi-concave disk shaped , and therefore more prone to hemolysis.-Symptoms:As in non-hereditary spherocytosis,...

), cirrhosis
Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease characterized by replacement of liver tissue by fibrosis, scar tissue and regenerative nodules , leading to loss of liver function...

, and biliary tract infections. People with erythropoietic protoporphyria
Erythropoietic protoporphyria
Erythropoietic protoporphyria is a relatively mild form of porphyria, although very painful, which arises from a deficiency in the enzyme ferrochelatase, leading to abnormally high levels of protoporphyrin in the tissue...

 (EPP) are at increased risk to develop gallstones. Additionally, prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors has been shown to decrease gallbladder function, potentially leading to gallstone formation.

Pathophysiology

Cholesterol gallstones develop when bile contains too much cholesterol and not enough bile salts. Besides a high concentration of cholesterol, two other factors are important in causing gallstones. The first is how often and how well the gallbladder contracts; incomplete and infrequent emptying of the gallbladder may cause the bile to become overconcentrated and contribute to gallstone formation. The second factor is the presence of proteins in the liver and bile that either promote or inhibit cholesterol crystallization into gallstones. In addition, increased levels of the hormone estrogen
Estrogen
Estrogens , oestrogens , or œstrogens, are a group of compounds named for their importance in the estrous cycle of humans and other animals. They are the primary female sex hormones. Natural estrogens are steroid hormones, while some synthetic ones are non-steroidal...

 as a result of pregnancy
Pregnancy
Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

, hormone therapy
Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy, or hormonal therapy is the use of hormones in medical treatment. Treatment with hormone antagonists may also referred to as hormonal therapy...

, or the use of combined (estrogen-containing) forms of hormonal contraception
Hormonal contraception
Hormonal contraception refers to birth control methods that act on the endocrine system. Almost all methods are composed of steroid hormones, although in India one selective estrogen receptor modulator is marketed as a contraceptive. The original hormonal method—the combined oral contraceptive...

, may increase cholesterol levels in bile and also decrease gallbladder movement, resulting in gallstone formation.

Diagnosis

Treatment

Medical
Cholesterol gallstones can sometimes be dissolved by oral ursodeoxycholic acid, but it may be necessary for the patient to take this medication for up to two years. Gallstones may recur, however, once the drug is stopped. Obstruction of the common bile duct with gallstones can sometimes be relieved by endoscopic retrograde sphincterotomy (ERS) following endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is a technique that combines the use of endoscopy and fluoroscopy to diagnose and treat certain problems of the biliary or pancreatic ductal systems...

 (ERCP). Gallstones can be broken up using a procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (often simply called "lithotripsy"), which is a method of concentrating ultrasonic shock waves onto the stones to break them into tiny pieces. They are then passed safely in the feces. However, this form of treatment is suitable only when there is a small number of gallstones.

Surgical
Cholecystectomy
Cholecystectomy
Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. It is the most common method for treating symptomatic gallstones. Surgical options include the standard procedure, called laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and an older more invasive procedure, called open cholecystectomy.-Open surgery:A...

 (gallbladder removal) has a 99% chance of eliminating the recurrence of cholelithiasis. Only symptomatic patients must be indicated to surgery. The lack of a gallbladder may have no negative consequences in many people. However, there is a portion of the population — between 10 and 15% — who develop a condition called postcholecystectomy syndrome
Postcholecystectomy syndrome
Postcholecystectomy syndrome describes the presence of abdominal symptoms after surgical removal of the gallbladder .Symptoms of postcholecystectomy syndrome may include:* Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting....

 which may cause gastrointestinal distress and persistent pain in the upper-right abdomen, as well as a 10% chance of developing chronic diarrhea.

There are two surgical options for cholecystectomy:
  • Open cholecystectomy: This procedure is performed via an incision into the abdomen (laparotomy
    Laparotomy
    A laparotomy is a surgical procedure involving a large incision through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity. It is also known as coeliotomy.- Terminology :...

    ) below the right lower ribs. Recovery typically consists of 3–5 days of hospitalization, with a return to normal diet a week after release and normal activity several weeks after release.
  • Laparoscopic
    Laparoscopy
    Laparoscopy is an operation performed in the abdomen or pelvis through small incisions with the aid of a camera...

     cholecystectomy: This procedure, introduced in the 1980s, is performed via three to four small puncture holes for a camera and instruments. Post-operative care typically includes a same-day release or a one night hospital stay, followed by a few days of home rest and pain medication. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy patients can, in general, resume normal diet and light activity a week after release, with some decreased energy level and minor residual pain continuing for a month or two. Studies have shown that this procedure is as effective as the more invasive open cholecystectomy, provided the stones are accurately located by cholangiogram prior to the procedure so that they can all be removed.

Choledocholithiasis

Choledocholithiasis is the presence of gallstones in the common bile duct
Common bile duct
The common bile duct is a tube-like anatomic structure in the human gastrointestinal tract. It is formed by the union of the common hepatic duct and the cystic duct . It is later joined by the pancreatic duct to form the ampulla of Vater...

. This condition causes jaundice
Jaundice
Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, the conjunctival membranes over the sclerae , and other mucous membranes caused by hyperbilirubinemia . This hyperbilirubinemia subsequently causes increased levels of bilirubin in the extracellular fluid...

 and liver cell damage, and requires treatment by cholecystectomy and/or ERCP.

Signs and symptoms

A positive Murphy's sign
Murphy's sign
In medicine, Murphy's sign refers to a maneuver during a physical examination as part of the abdominal examination and a finding elicited in ultrasonography. It is useful for differentiating pain in the right upper quadrant...

 is a common finding on physical examination
Physical examination
Physical examination or clinical examination is the process by which a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease. It generally follows the taking of the medical history — an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient...

. Jaundice of the skin or eyes is an important physical finding in biliary obstruction. Jaundice and/or clay-colored stool may raise suspicion of choledocholithiasis or even gallstone pancreatitis. If the above symptoms coincide with fever
Fever
Fever is a common medical sign characterized by an elevation of temperature above the normal range of due to an increase in the body temperature regulatory set-point. This increase in set-point triggers increased muscle tone and shivering.As a person's temperature increases, there is, in...

 and chills, the diagnosis of ascending cholangitis may also be considered.

Causes

While stones can frequently pass through the common bile duct (CBD) into the duodenum
Duodenum
The duodenum is the first section of the small intestine in most higher vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles, and birds. In fish, the divisions of the small intestine are not as clear and the terms anterior intestine or proximal intestine may be used instead of duodenum...

, some stones may be too large to pass through the CBD and may cause an obstruction. One risk factor for this is duodenal diverticulum
Diverticulum
A diverticulum is medical or biological term for an outpouching of a hollow structure in the body. Depending upon which layers of the structure are involved, they are described as being either true or false....

.

Pathophysiology

This obstruction may lead to jaundice, elevation in alkaline phosphatase
Alkaline phosphatase
Alkaline phosphatase is a hydrolase enzyme responsible for removing phosphate groups from many types of molecules, including nucleotides, proteins, and alkaloids. The process of removing the phosphate group is called dephosphorylation...

, increase in conjugated bilirubin in the blood and increase in cholesterol in the blood. It can also cause acute pancreatitis
Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It occurs when pancreatic enzymes that digest food are activated in the pancreas instead of the small intestine. It may be acute – beginning suddenly and lasting a few days, or chronic – occurring over many years...

 and ascending cholangitis.

Diagnosis

Choledocholithiasis (stones in common bile duct) is one of the complications of cholelithiasis (gallstones), so the initial step is to confirm the diagnosis of cholelithiasis. Patients with cholelithiasis typically present with pain in the right-upper quadrant of the abdomen with the associated symptoms of nausea and vomiting, especially after a fatty meal. The physician can confirm the diagnosis of cholelithiasis with an abdominal ultrasound that shows the ultrasonic shadows of the stones in the gallbladder.

The diagnosis of choledocholithiasis is suggested when the liver function blood test shows an elevation in bilirubin and serum transaminases. Other indicators include raised indicators of ampulla of vater (pancreatic duct obstruction) such as lipases and amylases. In prolonged cases the INR may change due to a decrease in vitamin K absorption. (It is the decreased bile flow which reduces fat breakdown and therefore absorption of fat soluable vitamins).
The diagnosis is confirmed with either an Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography
Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography
Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography is a medical imaging technique that uses magnetic resonance imaging to visualise the biliary and pancreatic ducts in a non-invasive manner...

 (MRCP), an ERCP, or an intraoperative cholangiogram. If the patient must have the gallbladder removed for gallstones, the surgeon may choose to proceed with the surgery, and obtain a cholangiogram during the surgery. If the cholangiogram shows a stone in the bile duct, the surgeon may attempt to treat the problem by flushing the stone into the intestine or retrieve the stone back through the cystic duct.

On a different pathway, the physician may choose to proceed with ERCP before surgery. The benefit of ERCP is that it can be utilized not just to diagnose, but also to treat the problem. During ERCP the endoscopist may surgically widen the opening into the bile duct and remove the stone through that opening. ERCP, however, is an invasive procedure and has its own potential complications. Thus, if the suspicion is low, the physician may choose to confirm the diagnosis with MRCP, a non-invasive imaging technique, before proceeding with ERCP or surgery.

Treatment

Treatment involves removing the stone using ERCP. Typically, the gallbladder is then removed, an operation called cholecystectomy, to prevent a future occurrence of common bile duct obstruction or other complications.

In other animals

Gallstones are a valuable by-product of meat processing, fetching up to US$10–per–gram in their use as a purported antipyretic
Antipyretic
Antipyretics ; an-tee-pahy-ret-iks; from the Greek anti, against, and pyreticus, are drugs or herbs that reduce fever. Normally, they will not lower body temperature if one does not have a fever. Antipyretics cause the hypothalamus to override an interleukin-induced increase in temperature...

 and antidote in the folk remedies of some cultures, in particular, in China. The finest gallstones tend to be sourced from old dairy cows, which are called (yellow thing of oxen) in Chinese. Those obtained from dogs, called Gou-Bao (treasure of dogs) in Chinese, are also used today. Much as in the manner of diamond mines, slaughterhouses carefully scrutinize offal department workers for gallstone theft.

External links

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