Normally a balance of bile salts, lecithin and cholesterol keep gallstones from forming. If there are abnormally high levels of bile salts or, more commonly, cholesterol, stones can form. Symptoms usually occur when the stones block one of the biliary ducts or gallstones may be discovered upon routine x-ray or abdominal CT study.
Review Date 5/2/2023
Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.