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a stonelike mass (calculus) in the gallbladder; the presence of gallstones is known medically as cholelithiasis. The cause is unknown, although there is evidence of a connection between gallstones and obesity; an excess of cholesterol in the bile appears to be of major importance. Gallstones are most common in women after pregnancy, and in both men and women past age 35. They may be present for years without causing trouble. The usual symptoms, however, are vague discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen. There may be indigestion and nausea, especially after eating fatty foods. X-rays will generally reveal the presence of gallstones, either directly or by use of a dye introduced into the gallbladder (cholecystography).

The most common complication of gallstones occurs when one of the stones escapes from the gallbladder and travels along the common bile duct, where it may lodge, blocking the flow of bile to the intestine and causing obstructive jaundice. This condition should be corrected by surgery before the liver is damaged or problems with infection ensue.

When a gallstone travels through or obstructs a bile duct it can cause biliary colic, with severe pain. The pain is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen and radiates as far as the scapula. morphine is usually not given to relieve the pain because it increases spasm of the biliary sphincters. meperidine, which does not have this side effect, is the preferred medication for pain. Treatment may also include insertion of a nasogastric tube for the purpose of gastric suction to relieve distention in the upper gastrointestinal tract. ursodiol is a drug that can dissolve gallstones and reduce the need for surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery is the usual method of treatment and is performed as soon as the patient is able to withstand it. In most cases the gallbladder is removed and a tube is inserted to establish drainage of bile that has been dammed up by the stone. (See also discussion of surgery at gallbladder.) For those patients unable to withstand cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) but who still require drainage, cholecystostomy is indicated.
Common anatomic locations of gallstones. From Malarkey and McMorrow, 2000.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


A concretion in the gallbladder or a bile duct, composed chiefly of a mixture of cholesterol, calcium bilirubinate, and calcium carbonate, occasionally as a pure stone composed of just one of these substances.
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


A concretion in the gallbladder or a bile duct, composed chiefly of a mixture of cholesterol, calcium bilirubinate, and calcium carbonate, occasionally as a pure stone composed of just one of these substances.
Synonym(s): cholelith.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about cholelith

Q. What arethe pros and cons of removingmy gallbladder due to gallstones

A. Pro - solves the problem (gallstones usually don't form in the absence of gall bladder

Cons - operation, with its complications: anesthesia, incision, hernia in the incision, infection etc.
Usually there are no chronic consequences for the absence of gallbladder.

However, this is only general advice - if you have any questions regarding this subject, you should consult a doctor (e.g. general surgeon).

You may read more here:

Q. What is a cholecystectomy and how is it done? My Doctor diagnosed me with gallstones and said I have to have a cholecystectomy surgery. What is this and how is it done?

A. Cholecystectomy is a surgery in which the gallbladder is removed. Don't be alarmed since you can live without your gallbladder. When the gallbladder is gone, bile flows directly from the liver into the small intestine.
You will probably have a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which means a surgeon will make a small slit in your abdomen, then insert a tubelike instrument which has a camera and surgical instruments attached. This is used to take out the gallbladder with the stones inside it.
This procedure causes less pain than open surgery, is less likely to cause complications, and has a faster recovery time. This surgery is performed in an operating room and you will be under general anesthesia. It usually takes 20 minutes to one hour.

More discussions about cholelith
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