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Pediatric Gallstones and Gallbladder Disease

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Summary

Gallbladder disease typically occurs when bile stones – hard and pebble-like - block the cystic duct or the common bile duct. Gallbladder problems are common in adults but somewhat rare in children, though the incidence is growing.

Increased screening and use of imaging technology, along with increasing childhood obesity, contribute to the rise in diagnosis of pediatric gallbladder disease.

Risk Factors

Genetic conditions and certain medications may also increase incidence.

Prepubescent boys and girls have an equal incidence of gallstones. In adolescence, however, girls develop the disorder more frequently than boys.

Symptoms

Children typically develop black pigment stones (as opposed to the cholesterol, calcium carbonate, protein-dominant variety of gallstones) and have symptoms of pain in the upper right side of the abdomen.

Tests and Diagnosis

  • An ultrasound helps confirm the diagnosis. Complications may include chronic calculous cholecystitis and biliary colic-type symptoms.

Compete blockage of the cystic duct can result in the sudden swelling and irritation of the gallbladder, known as acute cholecystitis, which could lead to necrosis and the leaking of bile, a serious condition. Further complications could include gallstone pancreatitis, choledocholithiasis and biliary obstruction.

Treatment

Laparoscopic surgery is considered the most effective treatment.

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