What is it?

The gallbladder is a small organ that lies below the liver in the stomach’s right upper quadrant. It functions as a container for the bile fluids produced in the liver. The bile fluids aid the digestion process.
Some conditions can result in the forming of stones in the gallbladder – called gallstones, or "calculus of gallbladder". Most gallstones are made from cholesterol and formed due to excess cholesterol in the bile. The rest are made of calcium and bilirubin. All the mentioned substances are normally present in the bile, and the exact cause of the formation of gallstone is not entirely understood. Gallstones can lead to abdominal pain and lead to complications such as inflammation of the gallbladder (called cholecystitis), inflammation of the pancreas, and gallbladder cancer.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Cholelithiasis
- Choledocholithiasis and Cholelithiasis Without Cholecystitis
- Choledocholithiasis and Cholelithiasis with Acute Cholecystitis
- Choledocholithiasis with Acute Cholecystitis
- Cholelithiasis with Cholecystitis
- Choledocholithiasis
- Cholelithiasis with Acute Cholecystitis

Signs & symptoms

Gallstones may cause no symptoms at all. In some cases, they may induce pain in the right upper quadrant of the stomach, lasting for a few hours. These periods of symptoms are called "biliary colic". In addition to pain, symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Diarrhea.
- Abdominal pain.
- Dark urine.
- Pale stool.


Diagnosis is made by questioning and investigating the medical history and physical examination to provide additional information and exclude other diseases. Further tests include:
- Blood testing – including liver function tests.
- Abdominal ultrasound, CT, or MRI scans.
- Gallbladder radionuclide test – a special imaging procedure in which a radioactive is injected into the vein, used to amplify and measure the gallbladder’s function.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – a procedure that allows looking at the bile and pancreatic ducts using a combination of x-ray imaging and a special camera inserted through the mouth.


In most cases, gallstones that don’t cause pain or symptoms require no treatment. However, symptomatic gallstones may indicate surgery to remove the gallbladder. Some life changes may also be advisable, such as maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol drinking, and avoiding high-sugar and high-fat meals.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

Learn more about our editorial process for content accuracy.

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