Sepsis and Gallstones

Gallstones are hardened deposits that can form in your gallbladder, a small, pear-shaped organ found just below your liver on the right side of your abdomen. The gallbladder’s role is mainly to store bile, a digestive liquid your liver produces. Sometimes substances in the bile, particularly cholesterol, stick together to form stones. It is possible to have gallstones and not know it, but when a stone is big enough to become stuck or lodged, it can block the flow of bile.

Most people usually pass the stones without medical help. If the stones are stuck though, they can be quite painful, and they could cause inflammation and infection. Some people must have their gallbladder surgically removed. Either situation could potentially lead to sepsis. Sepsis, which was often called blood poisoning, is the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Gallstones. 2024

Updated January 5, 2024.


More About Gallstones


It’s possible to have gallstones and not know it. However, if the stones are big enough and are causing irritation or they block the ducts, you could experience some of the following signs and symptoms. They often come on very suddenly, without warning:

  • Increasing pain in the upper right part of your abdomen
  • Intensifying pain just below your breastbone
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of these signs, please seek emergency help:

  • Abdominal pain so intense that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes
  • Tea-colored urine
  • High fever with chills
Risk Factors

Anyone can develop gallstones, but some people, such as those over 60 years, are at higher risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Sudden and quick weight loss
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Eating a high-fat, high-cholesterol, or low-fiber diet
  • Family history of gallbladder disease
  • Diabetes
  • Taking some cholesterol-lowering medications or hormone therapy drugs with estrogen
  • American Indian or Mexican-American ancestry

Treatment for gallstones depends on how much they affect you and if you are at risk for more stones and blockages. Gallbladder surgery removes your gallbladder, so you will no longer have stones. There are some medications that may dissolve some stones, but they are not commonly prescribed as they can take several months—even years—to work. They are not always effective.


Not all gallstones can be prevented, but you can reduce your risk by following a healthy diet and losing weight in a healthy manner (not too drastically or quickly) if you are overweight.

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