Gallstones and Gallbladder Disease

Expert care for gallbladder conditions

The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile, a digestive fluid produced in the liver. Sometimes, small stones can form in bile while it’s in the gallbladder, often as a result of having too much cholesterol in the bile. These stones are called gallstones.

Having symptoms from gallstones on a regular (chronic) basis is a common form of gallbladder disease. Other gallbladder diseases include biliary dyskinesia (a disorder that affects the proper movement of bile out of the gallbladder), cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) and gallbladder cancer.

Our doctors have extensive experience in treating gallstones and gallbladder disease. We use a team-based approach in diagnosing and treating these conditions, and we’ll be by your side every step of the way. Learn more about our team. 

Risk factors for gallstones and gallbladder disease

Anyone can develop gallstones and gallbladder disease, though women tend to be at greater risk than men. Other risk factors include: 

  • Being older than 60 
  • Being overweight 
  • Being pregnant 
  • Having Native American ancestry 
  • Having a family history of gallstones 
  • Having undergone weight loss surgery or otherwise experiencing rapid weight loss 

Symptoms and complications of gallstones and gallbladder disease 

If you have a gallstone, you may not notice any symptoms unless it blocks bile from moving out of the gallbladder and into the small intestine. If your gallstone is causing a blockage, or if you have ongoing gallbladder disease, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • Pain in the upper-right or center area of your belly 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stool

Without proper treatment, gallstones and gallbladder disease can lead to several complications, such as: 

  • Cholecystitis: An infection in the gallbladder that may require surgery 
  • Cholangitis: An infection of the bile duct system 
  • Gallstone pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas 

How we diagnose gallstones and gallbladder disease 

We use a variety of advanced screening techniques to help confirm a diagnosis or gallstones or gallbladder disease. These techniques include: 

  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): Using a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end called an endoscope, your doctor determines whether you have gallstones and, if so, if they’re blocking bile ducts 
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): This procedure, which also uses an endoscope, allows us to both diagnose and treat gallstone blockages of the bile duct 
  • Ultrasound: This procedure uses sound waves to let us see inside your gallbladder 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): These tests let us evaluate your entire abdomen for evidence of infections and blockages of the gallbladder or bile ducts 
  • Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan: This type of scan uses a small amount of a radioactive compound (injected into the bloodstream) to check for gallstones 

Learn more about our diagnostic tests. 

Our treatment options for gallstones and gallbladder disease 

Our doctors use the most advanced treatments for gallstones and gallbladder disease. You and your doctor will work together to create a treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and concerns. Your personalized treatment plan may include: 

  • Endoscopic treatment: Our doctors can use EUS and ERCP to locate and remove gallstones. 
  • Gallbladder removal surgery: Using minimally invasive surgery, our doctors can remove your gallbladder through small incisions on your belly. Minimally invasive surgery usually means less scarring, less pain and quicker recovery after your procedure. 

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