Gallstone pancreatitis is a condition where a stone develops in the gallbladder and makes its way into the pancreatic duct. This is the tube where fluids from the pancreas flow to the small intestine to assist with digestion. These pancreatic enzymes are produced in the pancreas and then activated a short time after leaving the gland to help digest food. When a gallstone moves into this duct and obstructs the flow of these fluids to the small intestine, they build up in the pancreas and become activated. The activated enzymes are corrosive to tissues not protected by a layer of mucus, like the lining of the small intestine.
The corrosion causes widespread and severe inflammation of the pancreas. When pancreatitis results from a lodged gallstone in the pancreatic duct, it is referred to as gallstone pancreatitis. Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, jaundice, squeezing upper abdominal pain, and vomiting. Doctors diagnose this condition with blood tests, computerized tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound. Treatment may include fasting and surgical removal of the gallstone.