How are gallstones formed?

Updated: Apr 01, 2019
  • Author: Douglas M Heuman, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Answer

Gallstone formation occurs because certain substances in the bile are present in concentrations that approach the limits of their solubility. When bile is concentrated in the gallbladder, it can become supersaturated with these substances, which then precipitate from the solution as microscopic crystals. The crystals are trapped in the gallbladder mucus, producing gallbladder sludge. Over time, the crystals grow, aggregate, and fuse to form macroscopic stones. Occlusion of the ducts by sludge and/or stones produces the complications of gallstone disease.

The two main substances involved in gallstone formation are cholesterol and calcium bilirubinate.


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