• Alternative Names

    Cholelithiasis; Gallbladder attack; Biliary colic; Gallstone attack; Bile calculus; Biliary calculus


    Many people with gallstones have never had any symptoms. The gallstones are often discovered when having a routine x-ray, abdominal surgery, or other medical procedure.

    However, if a large stone blocks either the cystic duct or common bile duct (called choledocholithiasis), you may have a cramping pain in the middle to right upper abdomen. This is known as biliary colic. The pain goes away if the stone passes into the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum).

    Symptoms that may occur include:

    • Pain in the right upper or middle upper abdomen:
      • May go away and come back
      • May be sharp, cramping, or dull
      • May spread to the back or below the right shoulder blade
      • Occurs within minutes of a meal
    • Fever
    • Yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

    Additional symptoms that may occur with this disease include:

    • Abdominal fullness
    • Clay-colored stools
    • Nausea and vomiting

    It is important to see a doctor if you have symptoms of gallstones. Gallstones are found in many people with gallbladder cancer.

    Signs and tests

    Tests used to detect gallstones or gallbladder inflammation include:

    • Abdominal ultrasound
    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
    • Gallbladder radionuclide scan
    • Endoscopic ultrasound
    • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
    • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA)

    Your doctor may order the following blood tests:

    • Bilirubin
    • Liver function tests
    • Pancreatic enzymes