Gallstones: Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to Gallstones.

Abdomen: The stomach area that begins just below the ribs and extends to the pelvis.

Abdominal ultrasound scan: A test that uses sound waves to create images of organs inside the body. If gallstones are present in the gallbladder they will be seen..

Bile: A thick brown liquid made by the liver that helps the body digest fats. It is stored in the gallbladder and released when food enters the small intestine.

Bile salts: Chemicals present in bile that help in the digestion of fats and also keep cholesterol dissolved in the bile.

Biliary colic: A spasm-like pain caused when gallstones pass into the common bile duct.

Bilirubin: A material released into the blood when red blood cells break-down. It is present in the bile as a waste material to be eliminated from the body.

Cholelithiasis: The medical term for gallstones.

Cholescintigraphy: A test used to diagnose gallstones in which radioactive x-ray dye is injected into a vein to make stones visible to a nuclear imaging scanner.

Cholecystitis: An inflammation of the gallbladder.

Cholecystectomy: Surgical removal of the gallbladder to treat gallstones.

Cholesterol: A fatty material necessary for many body processes. It is present in bile as a waste material. Most gallstones are made from cholesterol.

Cirrhosis: An inflammation of the liver that can increase the risk of certain kinds of gallstones.

Common bile duct: The duct that collects bile from the liver and gallbladder, as well as digestive juices from the pancreas, and carries them to the small intestine.

Cystic duct: The tube that carries bile to and from the gallbladder.

Endoscope: A thin, flexible tube that a patient swallows that allows the physician to see inside the upper gastro-intestinal tract. A camera is attached to the outer end. The surgeon may perform some procedures like removing gallstones using a tiny basket on the end of the instrument.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography(ERCP): A procedure used to diagnose and sometimes remove gallstones blocking the common bile duct. It involves swallowing an endoscope, which the doctor gently moves through the gastrointestinal tract to the small intestine. A special dye is released into the small intestine so that gallstones can be seen on x-ray. This technique can be adapted for use in surgery to remove gallstones using a tiny basket attached to the end of the endoscope.

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL): A procedure in which powerful shock waves produced by a medical instrument are used to break up gallstones into pieces small enough to pass through the common bile duct and into the small intestine.

Feces: Stool; undigested food and other waste stored in the large intestine until it is eliminated from the body.

Gallbladder: The pear-shaped organ located in the right side of the abdomen that stores and releases bile.

Gallstones: Stone-like objects that form from cholesterol and other substances in the bile. They may be as small as tiny crystals or as large as golf balls.

Hepatic duct: The tube that collects bile from the liver and delivers it to the gallbladder.

Hiatal hernia: A condition that occurs when part of the stomach bulges through the sheet of tissue that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen.

Jaundice: an often serious condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes become yellowish. If due to a gallstone that blocks the flow of bile through the common bile duct it is called obstructive jaundice.. There are other causes of jaundice not associated with gallstones.

Laparoscope: A pencil-thin instrument used for minimally invasive, or Band-Aid, surgery.

Liver: A large organ in the upper right side of the abdomen that has many important functions, including making bile and cholesterol.

Oral cholecystogram (OCG): A test used to diagnose gallstones that involves taking an iodine pill that makes stones visible on x-rays.

Pancreas: An organ that produces digestive juices. It sometimes can become inflamed in people with gallstones.

Pancreatitis: A potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas that can occur in people with gallstones.

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography(PTC): A procedure that involves injecting dye into the bile ducts with a needle that is passed through the liver so that gallstones can be seen on x-ray.

Small intestine: The part of the digestive tract where food passes from the stomach and is broken down into nutrients that the body can absorb and use.

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