Gallbladder stones: imaging and intervention

Radiographics. 2000 May-Jun;20(3):751-66. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.20.3.g00ma16751.


Imaging of the gallbladder for cholelithiasis and its complications has changed dramatically in recent decades along with expansion of interventional techniques related to the disease. Ultrasonography (US) is the method of choice for detection of gallstones. The characteristic US findings of gallstones are a highly reflective echo from the anterior surface of the gallstone, mobility of the gallstone on repositioning the patient, and marked posterior acoustic shadowing. Oral cholecystography remains an excellent method of gallstone detection, but its role has been limited due to the advantages of US. Most people with cholelithiasis will not experience symptoms or complications related to gallstones. When biliary colic does occur, it is typically caused by transient obstruction of the cystic duct by a stone. The primary imaging modality in suspected acute calculous cholecystitis is usually US or cholescintigraphy. Detection of gallstones alone does not permit a diagnosis of acute cholecystitis; however, secondary US findings provide more specific information. In detection of choledocholithiasis, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography are superior to US. In certain clinical settings, interventional radiologic procedures have become an important alternative to surgery in the treatment of gallstones and their complications; techniques include percutaneous cholecystostomy and gallstone removal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Cholecystitis / diagnosis
  • Cholecystitis / therapy
  • Cholecystostomy
  • Cholelithiasis / diagnosis*
  • Cholelithiasis / therapy
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Sensitivity and Specificity