Do all gallstones need to be removed?

Gallstones don't always need to be removed. In fact, less than 1 out of 5 people with stones have symptoms that require gallbladder removal. Sometimes, gallstones can make your gallbladder irritated and swollen. When the inflammation continues for a long time, it is called chronic cholecystitis. This problem is the leading reason for gallbladder surgery.

You may also need surgery to remove gallstones if they are causing these complications: 

  • Severe swelling of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis)
  • Irritation and swelling of the pancreas (biliary pancreatitis)

You might worry that leaving gallstones in might raise your risk for other complications, like cancer. Some research shows gallstones may make some people more likely to get cancer, but the risk is extremely low for most people.  Taking the gallbladder out to prevent cancer is more risky than watching and waiting for signs of disease.

No. Many people have gallstones. It is estimated that 10-30% of the people in the United States have gallstones. Over half of these people will never have symptoms or need medical treatment for gallstones.

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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.