Can gallstones be treated with surgery?

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Gallstones that become symptomatic are often treated with laproscopic surgery, according to Matthew Couch, MD, in general surgery at St. Petersburg General Hospital. Learn more about gallstones and treatment in this video. 
Surgery should be done if you have gallstones that are causing pain and other health problems. Doctors call these "symptomatic gallstones." It's important to treat such gallstones with surgery as early as possible. Delaying treatment increases your risk of gallstone attacks, which can make future surgeries more risky.

There are many ways to remove the gallbladder. The most common one is laparoscopic surgery. This method requires only small holes to be made in your belly, instead of a big surgical cut. The doctor passes special instruments through the holes to remove your gallbladder.

Sometimes, laparoscopy cannot be done and major or "open" surgery is needed. The doctor will make a large surgical cut across the belly to remove the gallbladder.

If you need to have your gallstones removed, always goes to an experienced surgeon who is skilled in treating gallbladder disease. Every surgery is risky, even simple procedures. Risks of gallbladder surgery include:
  • Injury to the bile duct, the structure that moves digestive fluid from the gallbladder to the liver
  • Leaking of bile (digestive) fluid
You should not have surgery if your gallstones are not causing you symptoms. 
Surgery to remove the gallbladder is a very common option for treating symptomatic gallstones. The surgery is called a "cholecystectomy," and about 500,000 Americans undergo the operation every year.

At one time, this was major surgery, and "open" cholecystectomies are still sometimes performed. But minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques have become the standard for treating reoccurring and painful gallstones. A laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves small incisions, less pain than traditional surgery, and usually requires only a daytime or one overnight hospital stay.

In a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes 4 tiny incisions (or one where there is a syringe port) in the abdomen to insert surgical instruments and a miniature video camera. The gallbladder is separated from other organs and the bile ducts, and then removed through one of the small incisions.
 

If you have gallstones without symptoms, you do not require treatment. If you have frequent gallbladder attacks, your doctor will recommend that you have your gallbladder removed-an operation called cholecystectomy. Surgery to remove the gallbladder-a nonessential organ-is one of the most common surgeries performed in United States of America.

Nearly all cholecystectomies are performed with laparoscopy. After sedating you, the surgeon makes several tiny incisions in the abdomen and inserts a laparoscope and a miniature video camera. The camera sends a magnified image from inside the body to a video monitor, giving the surgeon a close-up view of the organs and tissues. While watching the monitor, the surgeon uses the instruments to carefully separate the gallbladder from the liver, bile ducts, and other structures. Then, the surgeon cuts the cystic duct and removes the gallbladder through one of the small incisions.

If tests show that the gallbladder has inflammation, infection, or scarring from other operations, the surgeon may perform open surgery to remove the gallbladder. In some cases, open surgery is planned; however, sometimes these problems are discovered during the laparoscopy and the surgeon must make a larger incision. Recovery from open surgery usually requires three to five days in the hospital and several weeks at home. Open surgery is necessary in about five percent of gallbladder operations.

The most common complication in gallbladder surgery is injury to the bile ducts. An injured common bile duct can leak bile and cause a painful and potentially dangerous infection. Mild injuries can sometimes be treated nonsurgically.

If gallstones are present in the bile ducts, the physician-usually a gastroenterologist-may use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to locate and remove them before or during gallbladder surgery. Occasionally, a person who has had a cholecystectomy is diagnosed with a gallstone in the bile ducts weeks, months, or even years after the surgery. The ERCP procedure is usually successful in removing the stone in these cases.

This answer is based on the source infromation from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 
Yes, gallstones can be treated through a surgical procedure known as a cholecystectomy. This technique involves removing the gallbladder and restructuring the biliary system so that bile flows directly from the liver into the small intestine. This procedure is usually performed laparoscopically, which lowers the risk of complications and shortens recovery time compared with traditional, open surgery.

Continue Learning about Gallstones

Gallstones

Your gallbladder contains digestive fluids that help you process foods that you eat. When these fluids harden they are call gallstones. Gallstones range in size from smaller than a grain of sand to golf ball size. Gallstones might ...

not cause any symptoms. If you experience sudden pain in the upper right part of your abdomen or in the center of your abdomen, pain in your right shoulder or back pain between your shoulders, you may have gallstones that need medical attention.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.