Choledocholithiasis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Gallstone in the bile duct, Bile duct stone

Definition

Choledocholithiasis is the presence of a gallstone in the common bile duct. The stone may consist of bile pigments or calcium and cholesterol salts.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

About 15% of people with gallstones will develop stones in the common bile duct, the small tube that carries bile from the gallbladder to the intestine.

Risk factors include a previous medical history of gallstones. However, choledocholithiasis can occur in people who have had their gallbladder removed.

Pictures & Images

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Kidney cyst with gallstones, CT scan

Kidney cyst with gallstones, CT scan

A CT scan of the upper abdomen showing a fist-sized cyst of the left kidney and gallstones (the kidney cyst was found by chance; there were no symptoms).

Choledocholithiasis

Choledocholithiasis

About 15% of people with gallstones will develop stones in the common bile duct. The common bile duct is a small tube that carries bile from the gallbladder to the duodenum. Obstruction of the common bile duct may also lead to obstruction of the pancreatic duct because these ducts are usually connected. If the pancreatic duct is also obstructed, pancreatitis will likely develop.

Gallbladder

Gallbladder

The liver produces bile which aids in the digestion of fats. The bile travels through tiny canals which eventually drain through the common bile duct into the small intestine. The gallbladder stores excess bile that is not immediately needed for digestion.

Gallbladder

Gallbladder

The gallbladder is a muscular sac located under the liver. It stores and concentrates the bile produced in the liver that is not immediately needed for digestion. Bile is released from the gallbladder into the small intestine in response to food. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct at the small intestine adding enzymes to aid in digestion.

Bile pathway

Bile pathway

The biliary system is comprised of the organs and duct system that create, transport, store and release bile into the duodenum for digestion. Includes the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts (named the cystic, hepatic, common, and pancreatic duct).


Review Date : 6/3/2008
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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