Colic is severe pain in the abdomen that occurs as a result of a convulsion. The pain is highly present in the foreground and cannot be ignored. It makes people wake up at night. Colic is hard to localize. After some time, the pain slightly drops and becomes bearable again. Moments later, such an attack may start again.


Colic is caused when a hollow organ contracts and then relaxes again. In the vast majority of cases, it is related to the kidneys, liver, spleen, gallbladder, urinary bladder and urinary tract and is often caused by so-called ‘stones’. The intestines can also cause colic by obstruction or occlusion. In small children, we also speak of intestinal cramping (baby colic).


A symptom of colic is an attack of severe spasmodic pain with a recurring character. The patient often cannot lie or sit still. An attack is sometimes accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, depending on the origin of the cramping. The intense, cramping pain is located in one of the two flanks. ‘Flanks’ refer to both sides of the abdomen, directly above the hips.


The doctor will examine the cause of the pain by means of ultrasound or X-ray examination. Any stone is thus made visible. When a stone is not the cause of the colic, further investigation will be done into the cause.


The treatment is made up in the first place of controlling the pain. Painkillers, such as diclofenac, work very well against colic. Anti-inflammatory analgesics, also known as NSAIDs, are pain-relieving, fever-lowering and anti-inflammatory. With colic, they are used because of the effect on pain. The colic is often so severe that the patient is also nauseous. Therefore, the doctor will usually prescribe or administer pain medication in the form of suppositories or injections. Painkillers are only given when the cause is known and surgical intervention is not necessary.
When a stone is found, the patient will have a treatment plan to be drawn up, in order to remove the stone. Kidney stones are sometimes treated conservatively and sometimes by pulverization. Blockage of the bile duct by a gallstone can be solved by removal of the stone during an endoscopic procedure. However, the most effective treatment of gallstones is surgical removal of the gallbladder.


Stones are well treatable. It may happen that residues of stone remain after the operation, which subsequently have to be pulverized. The probability that stones occur more often to the patient is quite high.