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Gall Stones and Gall Stone Disease

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Symptoms of Gall Stones and Gall Stone Disease

Gallstones are collections of cholesterol, bile pigment or a combination of the two, which can form in the gallbladder or within the bile ducts of the liver. Cholesterol stones form due to an imbalance in the production of cholesterol or the secretion of bile. Pigmented stones are primarily composed of bilirubin, which is a chemical produced as a result of the normal breakdown of red blood cells.

Most individuals with gall stones are symptom free and is incidentally detected on an abdominal imaging . If the gall stone is causing any symptom it is called gallstone disease.

Gall stones create problem when they cause blockage of the bile duct preventing draining of bile from the gall bladder and the liver or block the pancreatic duct blocking  the flow of digestive enzymes from the pancreas because both the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts drain through the same small opening called the Ampulla of Vater which is held tight by a small circular muscle called the Sphincter of Oddi.

Cholecystolithiasis refers to the presence of stones in the gall bladder.

Symptoms arise when a gallstone blocks the flow of bile out of the gallbladder or through the bile ducts.

A gallstone in the common bile duct is called choledocholithiasis and may cause intermittent or constant discomfort. The pain of choledocholithiasis is usually localized in the upper abdomen, and can radiate (be felt in another location) in the right shoulder, may last from 30 minutes to hours, and be associated with sweating, nausea, vomiting, and. Gallstone attacks can produce chest pain that may feel like a heart attack. If a pain is new and different than other pains the symptoms should be discussed with a physician.

An inflamed gallbladder (cholecystitis), infected material trapped within the common bile duct (cholangitis), or a stone blocking outflow of pancreatic juice (gallstone pancreatitis) can result in fever, chills, severe abdominal pain or jaundice. Individuals with these complaints should have an urgent evaluation by a physician.

Treatment – The treatment for gallstones that obstruct the common bile duct is endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or surgery. ERCP involves passage of a thin flexible scope through the mouth and into the duodenum where it is used to evaluate the common bile duct or pancreatic duct. Tiny tubes and instruments may be used to further evaluate the ducts and remove stones if necessary. Cholecystectomy,or surgery for removal of gall bladder  is recommended for acute inflammation of the gall bladder due to gall stones. If a gallbladder operation is not possible, a medicine known as ursodiol, may be used to dissolve cholesterol gallstones but this can take months, and the stones recur in many people once the treatment is stopped.

Do you need treatment for Gall Stone Disease? Call Gastroenterology Institute of Orlando, FL at 407-201-3686 to learn more about treatment!


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