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Gallstone Complications

Complications of gallstones

• Jaundice

Jaundice occurs when a gallstone obstructs the common bile duct. There is yellowing of the eyes, the urine turns dark yellow and stools become pale and whitish like clay.

When a stone shifts and the block is released, the jaundice improves. The stone can block the bile flow and again cause jaundice. Therefore in cases of recurrent jaundice, obstruction due to gallstones must be ruled out.

• Cholecystitis

Cholecystitis is an inflammatory condition of the gall bladder.  In cholecystitis, there is constant pain in the right upper abdomen.  Unlike patients with biliary colic, individuals with cholecystitis usually lie still as movement causes pain. Patient has fever, and the white blood cell count is elevated.

• Cholangitis

In this condition the bile in the ducts becomes infected.  Patient has very high fever and elevated white blood cell counts.

• Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas.  If a gallstone obstructs the common bile duct just after the pancreatic duct joins it, flow from the pancreas is blocked.  This results in inflammation within the pancreas.

• Intestinal obstruction

A gallstone may erode through the wall of the gall bladder and enter into the stomach or small intestine. The stone is propelled through the intestine until it reaches the ileocecal valve, which is located where the small intestine joins the colon.

If the gallstone is too large to pass through the valve, it can obstruct the small intestine.

• Cancer

Cancer of gall bladder is almost always associated with gallstones, but it is not clear which comes first. Cancer of the gall bladder arises in less than 1 per cent of individuals with gallstones.  Therefore, concern about future development of cancer alone is not a valid reason for removing the gall bladder when gallstones are present.

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