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Biliary Colic: Care Instructions

Gallbladder and common bile duct


Biliary (say "BILL-ee-air-ee") colic is belly pain caused by gallbladder problems. It is usually caused by a gallstone moving through or blocking the common bile duct or cystic duct.

Gallstones are stones that form in the gallbladder. They also can form in the common bile duct or cystic duct. These ducts carry bile from the gallbladder and the liver to the small intestine. Gallstones may be as small as a grain of sand. Or they may be as large as a golf ball.

Gallstones that cause severe symptoms usually are treated with surgery to remove the gallbladder. If the first attack of biliary colic is mild, it is often safe to wait until you have had another attack before you think about having surgery.

The doctor has checked you carefully. But problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Avoid foods that cause symptoms, especially fatty foods. These can cause biliary colic.
  • You may need more tests to look at your gallbladder.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have new belly pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • There is a new or increasing yellow tint to your skin or the whites of your eyes.
  • Your urine is dark yellow-brown, or your stools are light-coloured or white.
  • You cannot keep down fluids.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • You are not getting better after 1 day (24 hours).

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.