Prognosis and Complications
Gallstones that do not cause symptoms rarely lead to problems. Death, even from gallstones with symptoms, is very rare. Serious complications are also rare. If they do occur, complications usually develop from stones in the bile duct, or after surgery.
Gallstones, however, can cause obstruction at any point along the ducts that carry bile. In such cases, symptoms can develop.
- In most cases of obstruction, the stones block the cystic duct, which leads from the gallbladder to the common bile duct. This can cause pain (biliary colic), infection and inflammation (acute cholecystitis), or both.
- About 10% of patients with symptomatic gallstones also have stones that pass into and obstruct the common bile duct (choledocholithiasis).
Review Date: 06/10/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.