The gallbladder is a small organ that sits just under the liver. Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder until it is released into the small intestine to help break down fats and aid in digestion. Gallstones are hardened particles of cholesterol and other components of bile that develop in the gallbladder. A gallstone can obstruct the normal release of bile into the small intestine if it enters the bile duct.
Gallstones can be asymptomatic or cause symptoms such as inflammation, irritation, or infection in the gallbladder. Because an infected gallbladder can burst, a gallbladder attack is considered a medical emergency.
At Dignity Health, our expert emergency care team provides fast, comprehensive care for gallstones in the Bay Area. If you need to go to the ER, try our Online Waiting Room. You can select your estimated arrival time, then wait in the comfort of your own home until it’s time for you to be seen.
What Causes Gallstones?
The exact cause of gallstones is not fully understood. However, your likelihood of developing them is increased by certain risk factors, including:
- Age 40 or older
- Family history of gallstones
- Female gender
- Mexican or Native American descent
- Rapid weight loss
Almost 80 percent of people with gallstones never have symptoms. When gallstones move into the bile duct leading to the intestine, symptoms begin to occur. The main symptom of a gallbladder attack is severe pain in the upper right part of your abdomen. This pain often spreads to your shoulder or upper back. You may also experience vomiting and nausea.
If a gallbladder attack lasts for more than an hour or is accompanied by a fever, see a Dignity Health doctor as soon as possible.
Trusted Gallstone Treatment at Dignity Health
Your gallstone treatment plan depends on whether or not you are experiencing symptoms. If you have symptoms of a gallbladder attack, emergency care doctors at Dignity Health hospitals will often recommend gallbladder removal surgery. In most cases, our surgical team can remove the gallbladder laparoscopically. This approach is less invasive than open abdominal surgery, and results in less pain and a quicker recovery time.
Dignity Health is dedicated to providing fast, effective emergency care. You can find relief from a painful gallbladder attack with us, anytime — day or night.
Dignity Health provides prompt comprehensive care for gallstones in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.