Gallbladder Pain (cont.)
Bhupinder Anand, MD
In this Article
What are the characteristics of gallbladder pain?
The term, biliary colic, is a misnomer, that is, it is misnamed. A colicky type of pain is a pain that comes and goes. Biliary colic does not come and go. It may fluctuate over time in intensity, but it does not disappear. It is constant. It comes on rather suddenly, either starting as an intense pain or builds up in intensity quickly to reach a peak. It remains constant (though possibly fluctuating in intensity) and then disappears, usually gradually. The duration of the pain is 15 minutes to several hours. If the pain is shorter than 15 minutes, it is unlikely to be caused by gallstones. If the pain lasts longer than several hours it is either not biliary colic, or the gallstone causing the biliary colic has led to a complication, for example, cholecystitis.
The pain of biliary colic usually is severe.
It is widely but incorrectly believed that biliary colic occurs mostly after meals. In fact, biliary colic is more likely to occur in the evening or at night, often awakening individuals from sleep. It appears that the ingestion of food does not cause biliary colic, even though the theory has been proposed that food causes the gallbladder to contract and push stones into the ducts.
Biliary colic is a recurring problem, but there is a tendency for episodes to occur infrequently, i.e, less than monthly.
Reviewed by Bhupinder Anand, MD on 12/15/2011
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