What is Cholelithiasis?

This is the medical terminology for hard deposits that can form in the gallbladder and are better known as gallstones. These gallstones are pebble-like deposits that are hard and are formed inside your gallbladder. They can be as large as a golf ball or tiny like a grain of salt. It is a very common disease in the United States, especially for women who are over the age of forty and people who are Hispanics or Native Americans.

This medical condition among adults is the fifth leading reason for hospitalization. For all duct and gallbladder diseases, cholelithiasis counts for ninety percent of the cases. Women have three times more incidents of cholelithiasis than men do. It is often more prevalent in people who are on medication to lower their cholesterol or have high cholesterol, or are obese. Most of the cases of this medical disorder occur between the ages of twenty and fifty and in women they are six times more common. After the age of fifty the incidents of this medical disorder between men and women becomes more equal.

Cholelithiasis Symptoms

Although it can cause inflammation and irritation of your gallbladder most people with cholelithiasis never have any symptoms. The gallstones are usually found during abdominal surgery or when you have a routine x-ray. They may also be found during other medical procedures.

If it is a large stone and blocks either the common bile duct or cystic duct a person may have in their middle to right upper part of their abdomen a cramping pain. When they have this symptom it is called biliary colic. If the gallstone passes in to the beginning part of the small intestine the pain will usually go away. If a person has an acute case of cholelithiasis they may have the symptoms of what is known as a classic gallbladder attack which is when they need to seek medical attention. Many times these attacks happen suddenly at night or after eating a meal that is rich in fats.

The intensity of the symptoms can vary from person to person. Some of the symptoms that may occur with cholelithiasis include:

Pan in the middle upper or right upper part of the abdomen that may be:

  • Dull, sharp, cramping
  • Be constant
  • Spread to below your shoulder blade or to your back or to the front of your chest.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Having a low grade fever
  • Have yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin known as jaundice
  • Stools that are clay-colored
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Belching
  • Flatulence
  • Indigestion
  • Chills
  • Swelling, bloating, distention or tenderness of the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating

Symptoms that are serious and may indicate a condition that is life-threatening may include:

  • Bloating, swelling, or distention of the abdomen
  • Fever that is higher than one hundred one degrees Fahrenheit
  • Abdominal pain that is severe
  • Nausea without or with vomiting


In many cases of cholelithiasis the cause is having an excessive amount of cholesterol in your bile, which your gallbladder stores until it is needed to aid in digestion. Bile is made in your liver and is greenish yellow in color. The excessive amount will begin to harden and form substances that are stone-line. In addition, some gallstones will form when the bile contains an excessive amount of bilirubin, which a waste product from your liver that is a component of the bile. When gallstones develop from excessive bilirubin, which are referred to as pigment stones.

In addition there are also risk factors that may cause a person to develop cholelithiasis such as:

  • Loosing weight to rapidly or crash dieting resulting in the bile having too much cholesterol.
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy because this lowers your gallbladder’s ability to get rid of all the bile.
  • Using certain medications that help to lower cholesterol.
  • Solid organ or bone marrow transplant.


When you see your physician they may do diagnostic testing and take blood samples. If you do have symptoms your physician may put you in the hospital and given antibiotics so you do not get an infection. While in the hospital in order to give your digestive system a rest they will stop the intake of food and give you intravenous fluids instead. If there is abdominal pain you may get medication to help relieve the pain.

If you have episodes of cholelithiasis that are recurrent the most common treatment is removing the gallbladder surgically. There are two methods of surgery, which are:

Open cholecystectomy

This is when the surgeon will remove the entire gallbladder through one incision.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy

This is when the surgeon removes the gallbladder in pieces through several small incisions. This method is the one that is most often used today.

The gallbladder is not an organ that is essential to the body and once it is removed they can live a normal life. They can also give a person medication to dissolve the gallstones but this type of treatment can take a long to do and they may come back.

Cholelithiasis Pictures


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