Gallstones are small stone like objects within the gallbladder. They are formed by an imbalance in several chemicals that the liver normally secretes (which normally aid in the digestion of fat). Gallstones are very common, one out of five adults have this condition.
Fortunately gallstones do not always cause problems and therefore do not always need to be removed. Stones in the gallbladder can cause various problems and then may need to be removed. Symptoms include nausea, pain and bloating. Severe problems caused by gallstones include cholecystitis (infection of the gallbladder) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
If you are thought to have problems related to gallstones, it is important to undergo appropriate investigations and then have a discussion with a surgeon about whether you need an operation to remove the gallbladder.
There are many non-conventional theories about how gallstones should be treated if they are causing problems. In general they do not dissolve away, and they should not be blasted into smaller pieces as this can cause more problems.
Patients commonly ask if the stones can be removed without removal of the gallbladder. This is not done because once diseased the gallbladder will simply continue forming stones. In a similar sense the gallbladder once diseased is not really helpful for the body to digest food. Removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy
A cholecystectomy is an operation to remove the gallbladder.
Cholecystectomy is a common operation. The gallbladder, which is attached to the under-surface of the liver, is freed from the liver, and then the connected duct and artery to the gallbladder are secured and divided. The whole gallbladder is removed with all its contents (including the stones). Often an x-ray is performed during the operation to make sure no stones are retained in the tubes that drain the liver.
This operation can almost always be performed by keyhole and most patients only require one night in hospital.