Medical Definition of Biliary sand

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Biliary sand: Biliary sand is a term, mostly used by surgeons, to describe uncountable, small particles in bile that are visible to the naked eye during the removal of a gallbladder. Biliary sand may be looked upon as a stage in the growth of the particles that begin as sludge (which are microscopic and not visible to the naked eye) to gallstones. The composition of biliary sand varies, but is similar to the composition of gallstones. The most common components of biliary sand are cholesterol crystals and calcium salts.

Biliary sand may cause no symptoms or cause intermittent symptoms. Symptoms of biliary sand are similar to those of gallstones and include pain in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, particularly after a fatty meal. Biliary sand can cause complications, including inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), and inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

Biliary sand often can be detected by an ultrasound of the abdomen.

If patients with biliary sand develop symptoms or complications, gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) may be performed as treatment.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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