Gallstones are solid deposits of digestive fluid in the gallbladder. While the condition is more common in adults, about 2% of children are diagnosed with gallstones. The formation of gallstones is called cholelithiasis. The board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists with Norton Children’s Gastroenterology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the experience to treat gallstones in children.

What Causes Gallstones?

Bile usually drains from the liver into the small intestine, where it helps digest food. Between meals, bile is stored in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ that sits just below the liver. This bile can sometimes harden, creating gallstones. The size of these stones can be small, like a grain of rice, or as large as a golf ball. The most common causes of gallstones in children can include:

  • Abnormal red blood cell production
  • Prolonged fasting because of illness
  • Long-term intravenous (IV) feeding (parenteral nutrition)

Signs and Symptoms of Gallstones

Many people have gallstones without knowing it. However, the gallbladder can become inflamed or a gallstone can create a blockage. This can cause:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Vomiting

Usually, once gallstones cause symptoms, the gallbladder will need to be removed.

Gallstone Treatment

The board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists with Norton Children’s Gastroenterology will work with you and your child to develop a unique care plan. Treatment will be based on your child’s age, current health, and the extent and cause of your child’s gallstones. Should your child require surgery, a minimally invasive procedure called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be an option for removing the blocked gallbladder.

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