Gallstones form when bile stored in the gallbladder hardens into stone-like material. Too much cholesterol, bile salts or bilirubin (bile pigment) can cause gallstones. Slow emptying of the gallbladder can also contribute to the formation of gallstones.
The first sign of gallstones may be abdominal pain that is severe enough to send you to the emergency room. This pain may be a result of a gallstone blocking the bile duct, which could require surgical removal of the gallbladder. Jefferson's world-class surgeons are experienced in performing gallbladder surgery as a permanent solution to gallstones.
In some cases, asymptomatic gallstones (gallstones that cause no symptoms) are discovered by accident – during another diagnosis. However, when pain persists, your Jefferson physician may want to conduct a complete medical history and physical examination, in addition to the following diagnostic procedures for gallstones:
- Ultrasound (also called sonography)
- Cholecystography (also called oral cholecystography or gallbladder series)
- Blood tests
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)