Gallstones are composed primarily of cholesterol, and these stones form as a result of chemical imbalances within the gallbladder juice called “bile”.
Above you can see the normal anatomy which shows the gallbladder connected to the Cystic Duct, and the Common Bile Duct, which ultimately joins the duodenum (small bowel).
There are certain individuals that are prone to stone formation. A few of the risk factors include the following:
Female sex, Pregnancy, Diabetes Mellitus, Obesity, Rapid weight loss, Elevated triglyceride levels
Complications Related To Gallstones:
When stones form inside the gallbladder, they can travel within the ducts and cause several problems:
Gallstones can cause severe pain called biliary colic. This pain is usually sever, intermittent, lasts about 30 minutes, and resolves on its own. The pain is usually located in the upper belly area, in the middle or the right upper side. The pain can travel to the back in-between the shoulder blades, and can be associated with nausea/vomiting.
Biliary colic can occur for many years without advancing into something more serious, but there is a chance of complications such as cholecystitis and cholangitis.
Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder).
If the stones fall out of the gallbladder and into the cystic duct, it could cause inflammation, require immediate attention and surgery.
If the stones block the main common bile duct, even more serious complications can occur such as infection, jaundice, and pancreatitis.
Usually surgery to remove the gallbladder is the definitve treatmement, but if stones are stuck in the common bile duct, a procedure called ERCP may be required to remove the stones from the common bile duct prior to surgery.