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Complications of Gallstones - Topic Overview

Gallstones may cause complications, including:

  • Obstruction of the common bile duct.
  • Inflammation or infection of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis).
  • Inflammation or infection of the common bile duct (cholangitis), which can occur when gallstones get stuck in the common bile duct. Though rare, this can damage the liver or spread infection.

Overall, about 15% of people with gallstones have them in the common bile duct. But if you are a young person with gallstones, your chances of having them in your common bile duct are lower. Your chances of getting gallstones in your common bile duct increase as you get older. As many as 50% of elderly people with gallstones have them in the common bile duct.1

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A splenectomy is surgery to remove the entire spleen, a delicate, fist-sized organ that sits under the left rib cage near the stomach. The spleen is an important part of the body's defense (immune) system. It contains special white blood cells that destroy bacteria and help your body fight infections when you are sick. It also makes red blood cells and helps remove, or filter, old ones from the body's circulation. If only part of the spleen is removed, the procedure is called a partial splenectomy...

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Less common complications can include:

  • Severe infection with pus filling the gallbladder (empyema).
  • An abnormal connection (fistula) between the gallbladder and small intestine.
  • A large gallstone blocking the small intestine (gallstone ileus).
  • A hole in the gallbladder (perforation).
  • Gallbladder cancer.

Doctors seldom recommend surgery to remove gallstones that are not causing symptoms if the only purpose is to prevent gallbladder cancer.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 15, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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