Describe A Gallstone Attack For Me


I’ve noticed a couple of posters mentioning issues with their gallbladder in recent days around here.

For my own information, if you’re willing to share, I’d like to know the details of what an attack actually felt like, what some of the symptoms were.

Thank you.

In my case, it was a vital, attention-getting pain deep in my right side. It didn’t come and go and move around like an intestinal cramp or an air bubble, so I knew right away that it was something new and serious. After seeing a GP and surgeon and getting an ultrasound, it came back with a vengeance on a Monday morning - I was doubled over with the pain. By 7 p.m. that night, the sucker was out.

I had one last week…no fun at all. Mine was kind of a dull but yet intense ache with some crampiness in the right upper quadrant of my abdomen with the pain radiating to my back. I was also extremely nauseated. It woke me up at about 6 a.m., and it was gone by about 11 a.m., but I remained really nauseated for the rest of the day. I had happened to take the day off from work for an appointment with my doctor that day, which was good, because I would have been completely useless all morning, plus already having an appointment scheduled was rather convenient.

The next day I was still fairly nauseated, with a little more ache in the same area, but I’ve been fine since. I might have to have an ultrasound and possibly surgery later, if the pain comes back any time soon, but my doc wanted to just sorta wait and see for now.

Never had one, but witnessed one last winter. Not good at all. We were awakened in the pre-dawn hours by our adult daughter crying. She was on the floor in her bedroom in agony. Sheer agony. Intense mid-abdominal pain. We called the rescue squad, who helped her get shoes on and get downstairs into the ambulance.

By mid-afternoon, when the hospital had completed the diagnosis and given her some pain relievers, and sent her home to await scheduled surgery, the attack passed and she felt o.k. Hospital folks said that is quite common for the intense pain to come and go.

The pain has a name; biliary colic. The descriptions you find of that are pretty descriptive of my own experiences. The pain escalates fairly quickly. Typically I will wake up about 1 am with a vague gastrointestinal discomfort and go sit on the toilet and within twenty minutes I will be writhing on the floor. I say writhing because I can’t seem to stop moving. It can last up to four hours, but I had one attack (during the day) that lasted 15 minutes. See a doctor.

I had them when I was younger and an attack felt something like getting hit in the solar plexus with a baseball bat. Demerol didn’t kill the pain but it allowed me to sleep through it. I was on Actigall for a couple of years and ultimately had to have my gall bladder removed when the drugs proved ineffective. In short, it sucked.


I’ve been lucky and not had any pain. I just get very nauseated and become quite familiar with the bathroom.

My experience was similar to what others have already posted. Intense pain, far worse than any stomach ache I ever had, in the upper right side of my abdomen. It made me nauseous though I didn’t actually puke or have any other intestinal troubles.

I actually had about three “attacks” before I got myself to a hospital (and had my gall bladder removed in emergency surgery). The first two lasted about four or five hours and then the pain went completely away. Pizza was my trigger food for whatever reason…approximately eight hours after eating it, the pain began.

My gall bladder attack happened about 20 years ago. It was my first and last.

I was watching TV when what felt like some severe gas pains hit. I took some Tums or some such, but the pain just kept getting worse and worse. Within an hour, I was vomiting yellow stuff and in such pain I couldn’t stand being touched or conceive of getting dressed (I was in my nightgown). My hubby helped me into a robe and a pair of socks, and actually put me in my mother’s wheelchair and wheeled me to the car to take me to the hospital.

The pain was horrible, but I do recall thinking at the time “this feels like kidney stones, but in the wrong place”. The pain was in the center of the upper abdomen, radiating around towards my back.

I was admitted to the hospital and the sucker was removed three days later.

My worst one felt like I had a rod or a poker all the way through my body out my back. A few inches below my ribcage on the right side. I thought I was gonna die! I had no idea what it was, and finally went to the emergency room, only to have the pain go away before I was seen. They sent me home with painkillers.

Much later I was diagnosed, and the ultrasound showed one about 3/4" diameter, plus a bunch of smaller ones. Periodically I would get pain, but nothing like that first attack. They said when a gallstone blocked the duct was when you would get pain.

I had my gall bladder removed a few months ago (when it wasn’t inflamed) and I haven’t had any side effects. And no more pain!

My wife did the same “writhing on the floor” thing. She was pregnant at the time so the only thing the doctor could do was say “take Tylenol”. She got some relief by spending a lot of time in our whirlpool bathtub. Removing her gallbladder worked wonders.

See a doctor.

So… does anybody really need a gallbladder, anyway? Does anyone have it removed preemptively?

I also had relayed pain in my shoulder, in the back of it.

Thank you for your input everyone.

Doctors have ruled out gallstones in my husband’s case, but it was still useful to have something to look at while we were waiting for the doctors to actually show up and tell us anything.

I didn’t think it was gallstones, because he was describing the pain as much lower and not going all the way through to his back/shoulder. But it took three and a half days for his primary doctor to actually come and see us, so we were just trying to figure out what, anything, could be going on.

FWIW, the surgeon who was sure my problem was gall stones had to run three different tests to diagnose them. The first two tests showed no gall bladder problems at all. The third test showed the stones.

Do you, by any chance, watch House? Sometimes they have to make several wrong diagnoses before they make the correct one!

I had one in late February, right after I finished a hot fudge sundae. It came on suddenly: tightness/squeezing in the chest that spread around to the back; shortness of breath; lots of sweating. It passed in about ten minutes, but by that time the paramedics were in my house and they wouldn’t let me stay there. Could have been a heart attack; the symptoms certainly mimic that.
It was a frightening experience, to be sure.

My heart is excellent, though—thank goodness.

One time, when I was in the hospital for something kidney-related, I had a roommate who was in for a gallbladder problem. Her surgeon had told her that so often, gallbladder problems are confused with heart trouble because the nerve-endings are right next to each other in the spinal column. Therefore (he said) sometimes a gallstone attack feels the same as a heart attack.

It’s useful but its absence is not life-threatening. It hold the digestive bile that the liver produces, and stores it until it’s needed. Without a gall bladder, some people get indigestion from certain foods because the GB is not there to add that little spurt of useful digestive juice exactly when it’s needed. I have never heard of anyone having it removed pre-emptively.

That makes sense. It sure hurt like hell. My doc said that out of ten people admitted to the ER with chest pains, 7 or 8 of them have something wrong other than a heart attack.

Don’t watch House, but I do know that :slight_smile:

The issue was an ulcer, which he’s had a history of in the past. It’s just that the symptoms were presenting fairly differently to the ulcer symptoms he’s had previously, and some of them sounded like a description of gallstones I’d read in another thread.

But most of the posts here point to the symptoms being much more severe than the ones he’s got, and he had an endoscopy that also showed he’s got another fairly large ulcer, so we’re 99% sure it’s not going to be his gall bladder.