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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.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Overall, about 10 to 15 out of 100 people with gallstones have them in the common bile duct. Your chances of getting gallstones in your common bile duct increase as you get older. As many as 25 out of 100 elderly people with gallstones have them in the common bile duct.1

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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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    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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