The formation of gallstones

Keio J Med. 1992 Mar;41(1):1-5. doi: 10.2302/kjm.41.1.


There are two types of gallstones; cholesterol and pigment or bilirubinate. Cholesterol stones are formed in the gallbladder as a consequence of altered hepatocellular and gallbladder function. Overproduction of cholesterol by the liver is the major metabolic precedent of cholesterol gallstones and this may occur because of obesity, drugs, or other factors. Gallbladder factors which promote stone formation include hypomotility and the secretion of nucleating factors such as mucus glycoprotein. It is possible that both of these two factors are mediated by an increase in the prostaglandin production by the gallbladder mucosa. Pigment stones are either brown or black. Brown stones are formed of calcium bilirubinate and are usually associated with biliary infection. They occur in both the gallbladder and the bile ducts. Black pigment stones are extremely hard bilirubin polymers and are found mainly in the gallbladder. Biliary sludge is a necessary precedent of gallstones. It comprises cholesterol monohydrate crystals, glycoproteins and granules of calcium bilirubinate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bilirubin / metabolism
  • Cholelithiasis / epidemiology
  • Cholelithiasis / etiology*
  • Cholelithiasis / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism


  • Pigments, Biological
  • Cholesterol
  • Bilirubin