Understanding your gallbladder and the Choledocholithiasis condition can be overwhelming. In this article we highlight top signs and symptoms of the condition and give you an idea of what it is.
Your gallbladder is a small organ that is pear-shaped. It is situated just below your liver, on the right side of your abdomen. Your gallbladder has a part in the digestive process of the food that you eat. Your gallbladder also has the job of storing and concentrating bile that your liver has produced.
In fact, your liver in continuously secreting bile. Bile is a digestive fluid that emulsifies fats and neutralizes acids in food that has been partially digested.
Choledocholithiasis and your Gall Bladder
Choledocholithiasis is a condition that is marked by the presence of at least one gallstone in your common bile duct. The stone or stones may be composed of calcium, salts or bile pigments.
It has been estimated that somewhere around 15% of the people who have gallstones will go on to have stones that occur in their common bile duct. Your common bile duct is the small tube that takes bile from your gallbladder to your intestine.
The stones that mark choledocholithiasis can develop in your gallbladder or your common bile duct itself. These stones can then lead to biliary obstruction, biliary colic, gallstone pancreatitis or cholangitis, which is inflammation and infection of your bile duct. Cholangitis may then result in stasis and strictures.
The stones of choledocholithiasis are not all the same. Some stones are considered to be:
Primary stones – These are usually brown pigment stones that occur in your bile duct.
Secondary stones – These are usually cholesterol. The develop in your gallbladder and move to your bile duct.
Recurrent stones – These are stones that develop in your bile duct three years after you have had surgery.
Residual stones – These are stones that are missed when you have a cholecystectomy.
Choledocholithiasis usually occurs in people who have a history of gallstones. However, you may have choledocholithiasis, even though you have had your gallbladder taken out.
You may not have any signs or symptoms with choledocholithiasis unless the stone or stones block your common bile duct. When you do experience signs and symptoms with choledocholithiasis, these may include:
Vomiting and nausea
Loss of your appetite
Abdominal pain that occurs in the upper middle or upper right part of your abdomen that may be cramping, steady, dull or sharp and radiate (move) to below your right shoulder blade or your back
Abdominal pain that takes place in your upper middle or upper right part of your abdomen within minutes after you finish eating a meal or gets increasingly worse after eating greasy or fatty foods
Abdominal pain that occurs in your upper right or upper middle part of your abdomen that may come and go
Jaundice (a yellowing appearance of your skin and the whites of your eyes)
The diagnosis of choledocholithiasis is usually made on the basis of your signs and symptoms and some diagnostic tests and procedures. Some of these are:
MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography)
PTCA (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram)
Abdominal CT scan
ERCP (endoscope retrograde cholangiography)
Blood tests, such as pancreatic enzymes, bilirubin and liver function tests.