Patient Safety at Ohio StateDuring this time of public health concern, some appointments for gallbladder care may take place via telehealth wherever possible and appropriate. You can also request a telehealth or video visit by contacting your provider. For all in-person visits, you can feel confident that our locations are safe. We’ve taken significant measures to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our patients are protected. Learn more by visiting our patient safety page.
What is Choledocholithiasis?
Choledocholithiasis is the presence of at least one gallstone in the common bile duct, the small tube that carries bile from the gallbladder to the intestine. Although risk factors include a history of gallstones, choledocholithiasis can also occur in people who have had their gallbladder removed.
There are few if any symptoms unless the stone blocks the common bile duct. If blockage and/or infection does occur, it can be life-threatening. However, the outcome is typically good if the problem is detected and treated early.
Symptoms may include:
- Pain in the right, upper or middle-upper abdomen for at least 30 minutes; the type of pain ranges from constant to cramping to sharp to dull
- Yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes/jaundice
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Clay-colored stools
Your doctor may order blood tests to check:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Liver function
- Pancreatic enzymes
To confirm size and location of any gallstones, as well as any blockage of the bile ducts, you may also have imaging tests including CT scans, MRIs or endoscopic studies using ultrasound or X-rays and a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera on the end that is inserted down your throat while you are under sedation.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – ERCP uses an endoscope and X-ray to examine the ducts that drain the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.
- During an ERCP, your physician may be able to remove gallstones using a balloon or cage, thus eliminating the need for any future surgery.
- Large stones can often be broken into pieces with a smaller camera that goes into the bile duct and a probe that delivers shock waves to crack the stone.
- Surgical removal of your gallstone – Recommended for recurrent gallstones or persistent blockage of bile ducts. Depending on your individual situation, this could be either minimally invasive surgery or more traditional, open surgery.
- Fortunately, a person can live without a gallbladder, as bile has other ways to reach the small intestine.