by EBSCO Medical Review Board

The doctor will ask about a person's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect gallstones.

Images will be taken to confirm the diagnosis. Options are:

Abdominal ultrasound —A device will be held over the belly. It will bounce sound waves off the body. The waves make electrical impulses that create images on a screen.

Endoscopic ultrasound —A long, flexible, lighted tube is inserted in the mouth or the rectum to view the digestive tract. A small ultrasound transducer at the tip of the scope lets the device get closer to organs. This helps get better images than a regular ultrasound.

(MRCP) —This method uses MRI to look for gallstones blocking the biliary and pancreatic ducts. It lets doctors to see the gall bladder, pancreas, and biliary ducts without using contrast material, procedures, or radiation.

Hepatobiliary scintigraphy (HIDA) scan —This is an imaging test to check how well the gallbladder is working and if it is inflamed. A person will be given a tracer drug, which is taken up by the gallbladder.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) —An endoscope is a long, flexible, lighted tube connected to a computer and screen. The tube is guided through the stomach and into the small intestine. Contrast material is injected that stains the ducts in the biliary system. Stones can also be removed during the test. This method works well for stones that have entered the bile duct.

Blood tests may also be done to look for problems from gallstones, such as infection, jaundice , pancreatitis , or an obstruction. Common tests are liver function tests, lipase, amylase, and complete blood count.


Gallstones. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2022.

Gallstones. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2022.

Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Accessed March 17, 2022.

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