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Gallstone disease: diagnosis and initial management

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Last updated:29th Oct 2014

This guideline covers diagnosing and managing gallstone disease in adults. It aims to reduce variation in care by promoting the most effective treatments, and to improve the advice given to people with gallstone disease before and after treatment.  

Gallstone disease occurs when hard fatty or mineral deposits (gallstones) form in the gallbladder. Approximately 15% of the adult population are thought to have gallstone disease, and most of these people experience no symptoms. For a small proportion of people with gallstone disease, the stones irritate the gallbladder or block part of the biliary system, and this can cause symptoms such as pain, infection and inflammation. If these symptoms are left untreated, gallstones can cause more serious and in some cases life-threatening conditions such as cholecystitis, cholangitis, pancreatitis and jaundice.

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