Conditions / Gallstone


Gallstones, as their name indicates, are hardened stones (deposits of digestive fluid or mineral) that form in the gallbladder. These stones range in size from a few millimetres to multiple inches. There could be just one gallstone in some people, while others can develop multiple at the same time.

Sign and Symptoms

Gallstones, if small in size, may cause no signs or symptoms at all. If a gallstone increases in size or lodges in a duct, the resulting signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen
  • Pain in the centre of the abdomen, just below the breastbone
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Radiating back pain between the shoulder blades
  • Nausea or vomiting


It is not known what exactly causes gallstones to form. Physicians think these stones may result when:

  • Gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly
  • Bile contains too much bilirubin
  • Bile contains too much cholesterol


There are several tests to diagnose this condition;

  1. Tests to create pictures of the gallbladder
    • Computerised tomography (CT) scan
    • Abdominal ultrasound
  2. Tests to check the bile ducts for gallstones
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan
    • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  3. Blood tests to look for complications
    • These tests may reveal pancreatitis, jaundice or an infection.


Most people with asymptomatic gallstones will never need treatment. Based on the symptoms and the results of diagnostic testing, a doctor will determine if treatment for gallstones is indicated. It usually includes;

  1. Medications to dissolve gallstones
    • Certain chemicals
    • Ursodiol
    • Chenodiol
  2. Surgery to remove the gallbladder
    • Open surgery (Cholecystectomy)
    • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
    • CT guided laparoscopic cholecystectomy

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other healthcare professional. ALWAYS check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment.

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