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Gallstones - Definition


The gall bladder is an organ of the abdominal cavity, functioning as a storage reservoir for bile secreted by the liver that it then sends down the bile duct to the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine, to aid in the digestive process. Gallstones are crystalline formations that develop inside the gall bladder. In the majority of cases, these are made up of cholesterol and caused by the secretion of bile overly-saturated in this fatty substance. They can also be due to pigment or medicinal drugs. When gallstones block the bile ducts, these are strained and can cause severe abdominal pain, typically in the right hypochondrium, the upper right section of the abdomen, or in the epigastrium nearer the center, in which case it is called biliary colic. Pain can subside by itself, but when the obstruction persists, the gall bladder can become inflamed, causing cholecystitis. Ultrasonography scanning can confirm this diagnosis, in which case it is necessary to surgically remove the gall bladder, a procedure called cholecystectomy.