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Bile Duct Stones

The bile duct is a tube that carries bile (a fluid that helps with digestion) from the liver to the gallbladder and the intestine. Bile duct stones (choledocholithiasis) are gallbladder stones that have become lodged in the bile duct.

Bile duct stones often pass on their own and you may never know you had one. However, in some cases they lead to blockages, infections and other problems that can be serious or even life-threatening. Prompt diagnosis and effective treatment provide you with a good chance for full recovery.

Bile duct infection (cholangitis) and inflammation of the pancreas (organ that produces chemicals to help digest food and control blood sugar) are potentially serious complications of bile duct stones.

Bile duct stones are made of bile pigments or cholesterol. They can be primary (formed in the bile duct) or secondary (formed in the gallbladder). Secondary bile duct stones are the more common type in the United States and affect about 15 percent of people who have gallstones.

Pigment stones develop more often in people who have cirrhosis of the liver, infections of the bile tract and genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia.

Symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the right upper abdomen
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)

Risk factors for cholesterol bile duct stones include having a history of gallstones, being over age 40, being female, being obese and losing weight rapidly. In some cases, stones form when the gallbladder does not push bile into the bile duct quickly enough due to diabetes or other conditions.

Experts at Indiana University Health deliver comprehensive care for bile duct stones using the most advanced techniques and equipment.

We use a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to identify bile duct stones and other conditions in your biliary system (bile duct and gallbladder), liver and pancreas. Our expertise makes IU Health a referral center for ERCP procedures that are performed unsuccessfully elsewhere and for treatment of bile duct stones that are large or difficult to remove.

Our affiliation with Indiana University School of Medicine and the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology sets us apart from other centers as we work within a multidisciplinary program to coordinate your care with expert surgeons, radiologists and other specialists. We conduct research to improve care for a variety of digestive conditions and we take an active role in training the next generation of physicians.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Bile Duct Stones Treatment Information

These procedures and services may be part of your diagnosis and treatment for bile duct stones:

Bile Duct Stones Locations & Physicians

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Bile Duct Stones Support Services

Visit these websites to learn more about bile duct stones: