Biliary Colic

What is Biliary Colic?

Biliary colic is a type of abdominal pain caused by temporary blockage of the common bile duct by gallstones or sludge. The obstruction prevents the necessary flow of bile which builds up and causes intense pain. Biliary colic is usually felt as a sudden and severe pain that is localized near the area of the ribs on the right side and can often extend to the back or shoulder blade.

What Causes Biliary Colic?

Biliary Colic is primarily caused by gallstones lodged in the gallbladder ducts. Gallstones are formed in the gallbladder when the bile is not correctly emptied or is unable to dissolve completely. When the stones travel from the gallbladder into the common bile duct, they can block the channel which causes a build up of bile and intense abdominal pain.

Symptoms of Biliary Colic

  • Intense, sudden pain in the upper right part of the abdomen
  • Pain that is usually lasts for 2-4 hours
  • Pain that radiates from your abdomen to your shoulder and chest or back
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Fever (rarely)

Treatment of Biliary Colic

In most cases, biliary colic will resolve itself after a few hours without any treatment. If the pain persists or is very severe, then medical intervention may be required. Treatment may involve pain medication, antibiotics, gall bladder surgery or even shockwave therapy.

Gallstones can be removed surgical procedure called a cholecystectomy or by using shockwave therapy. Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive process that uses sound waves to break up the gallstones into small fragments that can pass through the ducts. Surgery is usually done in more severe cases.

Prevention of Biliary Colic

  • Drinking plenty of water: Staying hydrated can help prevent gallstones from forming.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight: Being overweight increases your risk for gallstones.
  • Exercising regularly: Exercise can help reduce your risk for gallstones.
  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet high in fiber and low in fat can help reduce your risk for gallstones.
  • Avoiding Certain Foods: Certain foods, such as fried and processed foods, can increase the risk of gallstones.