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Overview

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ, located at the upper right part of the abdomen below the liver. The role of the gall bladder is to store the bile juice that helps in proper digestion.

Whenever there is an excessive cholesterol deposit, it gets hardened and forms Gallstones. These are of varying sizes ranging from the size of a grain to the size of a golf ball. Also, there may be multiple gallstones present at the same time. 

Sign & Symptoms

The most common symptoms of gallstones are biliary colic and cholecystitis, however, usually, gallstones cause no symptoms. The pain from biliary colic is a very specific type that comes on suddenly or rapidly and builds to a peak over a few minutes; however, the pain may vary in severity. Movement does not make the pain worse.

Often, gallstones do not show any symptoms, but when it gets stuck in the duct, it can cause blockage. In that case, you can experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Rarely, pain may be felt under the sternum & is mistaken for a heart attack or angina (chest pain).

  • Sudden acute pain in the upper right side of the abdomen

  • Back pain between the shoulder blades

  • Pain in the right shoulder

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dark urine

  • Burping

  • Diarrhea

  • Indigestion or acidity

Symptoms of a gallbladder attack include:

  • Pain in the upper right side or middle of the abdomen
  • The pain typically starts suddenly
  • The pain may be dull, sharp, or cramping
  • The pain is steady and may spread to the back or the area below the right shoulder blade

Other conditions that may arise due to untreated gallstones are as follows:

  • Jaundice
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Pancreas inflammation
  • Cholangitis, a bile duct infection
  • Sepsis, a blood infection

Investigation & Diagnosis

Physical Examination

The doctor will conduct a physical examination by checking your eyes and skin for change in color as a yellowish tint can indicate signs of jaundice.


Ultrasound

Preferred imaging method to see the presence of gallstones and abnormalities due to acute cholecystitis.


Abdominal CT Scan

An imaging test that provides images of your liver and abdominal area.


Blood Tests

Tests the amount of bilirubin and how the liver is functioning.



Endoscopic Retrograde
Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

During this procedure, a camera and X-rays are used to determine the problems in the bile pancreatic duct.


Treatment Modalities

Commonly, Gallstones require no treatment unless they cause severe symptoms like pain, and vomiting, etc. Surgery is recommended in severe cases.



Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal
(Laparoscopy Cholecystectomy)


During this procedure, the surgeon will make 3-4 incisions in your abdomen. Through these incisions, a small, lighted device is inserted to carefully remove the gallbladder. The patient is relieved on the same day or within 24 hours of the procedure if no further complication is seen.


Gallbladder removal can be done through open surgery if you have had multiple previous abdominal surgeries. But in most cases, it is a keyhole surgery.


In some situations, the surgery starts off as a keyhole procedure (laparoscopic) and is then converted into open surgery. This happens if the crucial points of anatomy are unclear due to inflammation or adhesions in the patient's abdomen.

Frequently asked questions

Are Gall bladder stones Serious?

A gallstone may cause a serious condition when small-sized stone blocks the bile duct. The conditions may include Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation), Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), Jaundice, and/or Cholangitis (inflammation of the liver).

How painful is gallbladder surgery?

You will feel some pain after surgery. Pain at the incision sites and in your abdomen is common. You might also have pain in your shoulders. This is from the air put into your abdomen during the operation.

Do you gain weight after gallbladder removal?

When the body adjusts to changes caused by gallbladder removal, it impacts how the digestive system processes energy. In some cases, this leads to weight gain. The body may not be able to digest fat and sugar efficiently. The energy from food is then stored as fat in the patient's body, causing weight gain.

Can Stone be removed from Gallbladder?

Medications (including Ursodeoxycholic acid), Lithotripsy (breaking down of gallstones through shock waves and Laser), ERS or Endoscopic Retrograde Sphincterotomy (for relief from obstruction), and Cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder) are the methods used for removing gallbladder stones.

What foods to avoid if you have gall bladder stones?

One should avoid food high in cholesterol and fat during the gallstone condition. A diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat/ poultry/ fish, which is high in fiber, is good for gallstone condition.

Can you dissolve gall bladder stones?

Medications including ursodiol and chenodiol can dissolve the cholesterol gallstones, but it may take years for them to produce the desired effects.

Can apple juice dissolve gall bladder stones?

Apple juice contains malic acid, which may soften the gallstones. No scientific studies actually support the claim. Consumption of excessive fruit juices can be detrimental to health. Talk to your physician before using any such natural remedy.

Is it possible to remove gall bladder stones without surgery?

The gallstones can be removed without surgery by methods including Lithotripsy and shock wave therapy, medications, and endoscopy treatment.

What is the best treatment for gallbladder stones?

If gallstones occur frequently, surgery is the recommended treatment option, which is the removal of the gallbladder. Medications are used in people who cannot undergo surgery, and it may take years to give results.

Which doctor treats gallbladder stones?

A Gastroenterologist treats gallbladder stones. You may also be referred to a surgeon for Cholecystectomy or surgical removal of the gallbladder.

How can I dissolve gall bladder stones naturally?

While a number of claims have been made that the gallstones can be dissolved through natural remedies including Apple juice, apple cider vinegar, milk thistle, and others, no conclusive evidence has been found towards the effectiveness of these remedies. Only trust your registered and certified doctor for providing you the best and reliable treatment.

Can gallstones come back after the gallbladder is removed?

Gallstones may not be formed in the gallbladder as it is surgically removed, but it still can form in the other structures located within the biliary tract (for instance, the common bile duct). But such incidences are very rare.

Can you remove gallstones without removing the gallbladder?

Medications can dissolve the cholesterol gallstones over a period of a few years. Lithotripsy or extracorporeal shockwave treatment can be used in patients not having enough strength for gallbladder surgery.

Can you still have gallstones symptoms after they have been removed?

Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) should eliminate all gallstone-related symptoms except in three situations: Gallstones were left in the ducts, There were problems with the bile ducts in addition to gallstones, and Gallstones were not the cause of the symptoms.

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