Gallstones are pieces of solid digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ under the liver. The gallbladder's job is to store bile, a fluid made by the liver to digest fat. As the stomach and intestines digest food, the gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. Gallstones form when substances such as cholesterol in the bile harden, and depending on their size – they range from the size of a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball – may block the bile duct. They also may form if the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough.

Gallstones usually form after eating, and while many cause no symptoms, others may cause pain in the upper right abdomen, the center of the breastbone, between the shoulder blades, or in the right shoulder. The pain can last a few minutes to several hours. Many people refer to this as a "gallbladder attack." Gallstones often are found while being examined for another illness. Gallstones may be hereditary, and some groups of people are more prone to gallstones, including women and older adults, the obese, those with high hormone levels, diabetics, and those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.



UAB Medicine is known worldwide as a leading center for digestive and liver disorders. Our Gastroenterology and Gastrointestinal (GI) Surgery program is consistently recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report. We see more than 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures annually.

Our Digestive Health Center combines gastroenterology care, GI surgery, and a wide range of advanced diagnostic and support services in a convenient location for our patients. The center is staffed by specialists in gastroenterology, radiology, and GI surgery, all of whom work together as a diverse team of digestive health experts. UAB gastroenterologists use the most up-to-date technology to diagnose and treat GERD accurately and thoughtfully. Our GI surgeons are experts in treating GERD using modern treatment options, and they perform over 100 laparoscopic or robotic operations for GERD each year.






UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for Gallstones. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

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