Gallbladder Pain (cont.)
Bhupinder Anand, MD
In this Article
What are the symptoms associated with gallbladder pain?
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The most common symptom that accompanies biliary colic is nausea with or without vomiting. The vomiting does not make the pain better since it has no effect on the distended ducts or gallbladder. Other non-specific symptoms, more likely caused as a response to pain rather than the obstruction, are sweating (diaphoresis), weakness, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. Symptoms that suggest other causes for pain are pain that is maximal in the lower abdomen, abdominal bloating or belching, and abnormal bowel patterns.
What are other biliary causes of pain?
The sudden obstruction of the ducts causes biliary colic. Other processes that suddenly obstruct the ducts also can cause biliary colic, for example, bleeding into the ducts or the entry of parasites into the ducts, but these causes are rare. The occurrence of slowly progressive obstruction does not cause biliary colic unless sudden obstruction is superimposed upon the progressive obstruction. For this reason, it is uncommon for slowly growing cancers of the bile ducts, gallbladder, or pancreas (through which the common bile duct passes) to cause biliary colic.
Diagnosis of gallstones as cause of biliary pain In addition to ultrasonography, it may be useful to obtain blood tests to assess the liver (aminotransferases) and pancreas (amylase). If the tests are abnormal they support the diagnosis of a process involving the liver, bile ducts and gallbladder, or pancreas. They do not indicate specifically what the problem is, but an early rise and rapid fall in their levels suggests obstruction of the biliary ducts. Endoscopic ultrasonography is the best test for diagnosing gallstones, but it is expensive and carries the risk of complications.
Reviewed by Bhupinder Anand, MD on 12/15/2011
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