Gallstones are highly prevalent, but most (80%) are asymptomatic.
Common risk factors include older age, female sex and pregnancy, obesity, rapid weight loss, drugs, and a family history.
Abdominal ultrasound provides effective diagnostic imaging.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy represents definitive treatment for symptomatic patients.
Complications such as cholecystitis, cholangitis, and pancreatitis develop in 0.1% to 0.3% of patients annually.
Gallstones are the most common gastrointestinal disease that requires hospitalization in developed countries.
Cholelithiasis is the presence of solid concretions in the gallbladder. Gallstones form in the gallbladder but may exit into the bile ducts (choledocholithiasis). Symptoms ensue if a stone obstructs the cystic, bile, or pancreatic duct. Most gallstones in developed countries (>90%) consist of cholesterol. Cholesterol gallstone formation begins with the secretion of bile supersaturated with cholesterol from the liver. Initiated by nucleating factors such as mucin, microscopic crystals then precipitate in the gallbladder where hypomotility provides time for stone growth.
History and exam
- increasing age
- female sex
- Hispanic and Native American ethnicity
- family history of gallstones
- gene mutations
- pregnancy/exogenous estrogen
- obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome
- nonalcoholic liver disease
- prolonged fasting/rapid weight loss
- total parenteral nutrition (TPN)
- incretin-based drugs
- terminal ileum disease or resection
- low-fiber diet
Emeritus Professor of Medicine
Division of Gastroenterology
University of Calgary
ES declares that he has no competing interests.
Professor Eldon Shaffer would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Vikesh K. Singh and Dr Anthony N. Kalloo, previous contributors to this topic.
Director of Pancreatic Disorders
Section of Gastroenterology
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
TBG declares that he has no competing interests.
Professor of Hepatobiliary Surgery
Manchester Royal Infirmary
AS declares that he has no competing interests.
Clinical Research Fellow
Hepatopancreatobiliary and Liver Transplant Surgery
University Department of Surgery
Royal Free Campus
UCL Medical School
KG declares that he has no competing interests.
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