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A 35-year-old woman presents to the emergency department with right upper quadrant pain of two hours duration. She awoke several hours after eating a large meal. Based on increasing pain and nausea she presents for evaluation. She denies vomiting, fever or dysuria.
Her past history is notable for diet-controlled type II diabetes, dyslipidemia, and essential hypertension. Her BMI is 33. Her only medication is lisinopril 10 mg daily. She has never had surgery. Her social history is unremarkable. She neither drinks alcohol nor uses tobacco. She has begun to diet and reports recent weight loss.
Her temperature is 37ºC, blood pressure: 110 / 70 mm Hg, pulse: 90 beats per minute. Physical exam reveals an overweight female in mild distress secondary to right upper quadrant pain. She cannot find a position of comfort and describes the pain as similar to labor pains. Pertinent exam findings include: chest exam normal, cardiac exam normal, abdominal exam demonstrates normal bowel sounds and no rebound in any quadrant. She has guarding to inspiration with palpation over the gallbladder which called positive Murphy’s sign. Rectal exam normal, stool is hemoccult negative for blood.
Pertinent lab values: glucose 110 mg/dL, alkaline phosphatase 120 U/L, alanine aminotransferase (A.L.T.) 25 U/L, aspartate aminotransferase (A.S.T.) 25 U/L, gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT) 20 U/L, direct bilirubin 0.1 mg/dL, total bilirubin 0.5 mg/dL, lipase 20 U/L.
The emergency physician performs a focused right upper quadrant ultrasound and finds gallstones without associated gallbladder wall thickening or pericholecystic fluid. In addition, the patient has a “sonographic Murphy sign”: there is maximal abdominal tenderness when the ultrasound probe is pressed over the visualized gallbladder.
An I.V. was established, and the patient received an isotonic fluid bolus. In addition, ketorolac 30 mg I.V. and ondansetron 4 mg I.V. were administered.
Over the course of an hour symptoms resolved. Absent evidence of gallbladder inflammation or infection, she was discharged from the emergency department and referred to a general surgeon for elective cholecystectomy. She was advised that her pain might return but if it is prolonged, is associated with fever or jaundice she is to return to the emergency department.