Medical professional examining an X-ray for Gallstone Ileus diagnosis

Gallstone Ileus: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Gallstone ileus is a medical condition that, although rare, can be incredibly distressing for those affected. In this comprehensive article, we will delve deep into the world of gallstone ileus, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention strategies. Our aim is to provide you with a wealth of information that not only helps you understand this condition but also equips you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your health.

What is Gallstone Ileus?

Gallstone ileus is a gastrointestinal disorder that occurs when a gallstone, a small, hardened deposit that forms in the gallbladder, becomes lodged in the small intestine. This blockage can obstruct the normal flow of digested food and fluids, leading to a range of uncomfortable and potentially dangerous symptoms.

Causes of Gallstone Ileus

The primary cause of gallstone ileus is the migration of gallstones from the gallbladder into the small intestine. This migration can occur due to several factors, including:

  1. Gallbladder Disease: The presence of gallbladder disease, such as gallstones or inflammation, increases the risk of gallstone migration.
  2. Age: Gallstone ileus is more common in elderly individuals.
  3. Female Gender: Women are more likely to develop gallstones, increasing the likelihood of gallstone ileus.
  4. Obesity: Gallstone development is a risk factor for obesity.
  5. Previous Abdominal Surgery: If you’ve had abdominal surgery in the past, you may be at a higher risk of developing this condition.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Identifying the symptoms of gallstone ileus is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal Pain: Sudden and severe abdominal pain is a hallmark symptom. Waves could come and go.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Patients often experience nausea and vomiting, which can be persistent.
  • Abdominal Distension: Your abdomen may become visibly swollen due to the blockage.
  • Constipation: A lack of bowel movements or severe difficulty passing stool.
  • Fever: In some cases, fever may develop as a sign of infection.

Diagnosing Gallstone Ileus

To diagnose gallstone ileus, healthcare providers may employ various diagnostic tools, including:

  • Abdominal X-rays: X-rays can help detect the presence of gallstones in the intestinal tract.
  • CT Scans: Computed tomography scans provide detailed images of the intestines, aiding in diagnosis.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests may reveal signs of infection or electrolyte imbalances.

Treatment Options

The management of gallstone ileus typically involves a combination of medical and surgical interventions, depending on the severity of the condition.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  1. Nasogastric Tube: This may be inserted to decompress the stomach and relieve vomiting.
  2. Intravenous Fluids: To keep the balance of your electrolytes and hydration.

Surgical Treatment

In many cases, surgical intervention is necessary to remove the obstructing gallstone. There are two main surgical approaches:

  1. Enterolithotomy: This procedure involves making an incision in the small intestine to directly remove the gallstone.
  2. Cholecystectomy: In some instances, the surgeon may decide to remove the gallbladder to prevent future occurrences.

Preventing Gallstone Ileus

Prevention is key, and making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing gallstones and, consequently, gallstone ileus:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity is a risk factor for gallstone formation, so strive to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: A diet rich in fiber and low in saturated fats can help prevent gallstones.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water daily is essential for overall digestive health.
  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can increase the risk of gallstones, so limit alcohol consumption.

Recovery and Postoperative Care

Following surgical intervention for gallstone ileus, a well-structured recovery and postoperative care plan is essential to ensure a smooth recuperation process. Here is what to expect at this phase:

  1. Hospital Stay: After the surgery, you will likely spend some time in the hospital for close monitoring. The duration of your stay will depend on the complexity of the procedure and your overall health.
  2. Pain Management: Managing postoperative pain is a priority. Your medical team will provide appropriate pain relief medications to keep you comfortable during your recovery.
  3. Monitoring: Healthcare professionals will closely monitor your vital signs and check for any signs of complications. This include determining your oxygen levels, temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  4. Fluids and Nutrition: Initially, you may not be able to eat or drink right after surgery. You will receive fluids through an IV to keep you hydrated. As your condition stabilizes, you will gradually transition to a clear liquid diet and then to solid foods.
  5. Bowel Function: Restoring normal bowel function is a critical aspect of recovery. Your healthcare team will carefully assess your bowel movements and ensure that your digestive system is functioning properly.


In conclusion, gallstone ileus is a rare but serious condition that results from gallstones obstructing the small intestine. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential for a successful outcome. If you experience symptoms like severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or constipation, seek immediate medical attention.

Mohd Shuaib is a dedicated and knowledgeable author with a strong background in the field of health and medical sciences. With a Master of Science degree and a passion for writing, Shuaib has established himself as a reputable content writer at DiseaseInfoHub, a prominent platform for disseminating accurate and up-to-date information about various diseases and health-related topics.

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