Gallstones

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

What are gallstones, and how do they form?

Gallstones (often misspelled as gall stones) are stones that form in the gall (bile) within the gallbladder. (The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ just below the liver that stores bile secreted by the liver.) Gallstones reach a size of between a sixteenth of an inch and several inches.

  • Bile is a watery liquid made by the cells of the liver that is important for digesting food in the intestine, particularly fat, and eliminating toxic substances from the body.
  • Liver cells secrete the bile into small canals within the liver referred to as canaliculi.
  • The bile flows through the canaliculi and into larger collecting ducts within the liver referred to as intrahepatic bile ducts.
  • The bile then flows through merged intrahepatic bile ducts out of the liver as extrahepatic (outside the liver) bile ducts, ( first into the two hepatic bile ducts, then into the single common hepatic duct, and finally, after the common hepatic duct is joined by the cystic duct coming from the gallbladder, into the common bile duct.

From the common bile duct, there are two different directions that bile can flow.

  • The first direction is through the common bile duct and directly into the intestine where the bile mixes with food and promotes digestion of food. At the same time toxic substances that are removed by the liver from the blood are eliminated into the intestine.
  • The second direction is into a off-shoot of the common bile duct, the cystic duct, and from there into the gallbladder. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 4/18/2016
References


UpToDate. Gallstones (Beyond the Basics).

Thistle, J. et al. Factors That Predict Relief From Upper Abdominal Pain After Cholecystectomy. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Vol. 9, Issue 10, p891–896. Published online: May 23, 2011.

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