Updated: Feb 12, 2020
What is Gallbladder and where is it located?
Gallbladder is a pear shaped structure situated beneath the liver. It is connected to the liver and intestine through small tubes called bile ducts.
The main function of Gallbladder is to store bile. Bile is a yellowish green fluid secreted by the Liver. Bile helps in digestion of fat ingested by us and absorption of few vitamins. It also helps in throwing out waste and toxic substances out of out body. When we ingest a fatty meal, gallbladder contracts and pours out bile into small intestine to help in digestion.
What are Gallstones and How are they formed?
Gallstones are solid concretions that form inside the gallbladder. They can be both small and multiple or large and single.
The commonest type of gallstones are cholesterol stones. They are formed due to crystallization of bile inside the gallbladder.
What are the risk factors for Gallstones?
The precise reason why stones are formed inside the gallbladder is not known. There are a few risk factors for increased incidence of gallstones. These are:
Age of around 40 years
Family history of gallstones
Sudden weight loss
What are the symptoms of stones in gallbladder?
The following can be the symptoms of stones in gallbladder:
In most individuals stones in the gallbladder do not cause any symptoms. They are called Silent Gallstones. They are detected on scans done for other reasons.
Pain in the upper part of abdomen and right side is the commonest symptom. Pain is usually episodic which lasts for few hours. Pain can also spread to the back
Nausea and vomiting is commonly associated with pain
Can gallstones cause serious or life threatening problems?
Yes. But it is very rare to happen. The following are the serious complications of gallstones:
It can lead to Jaundice with infection of the entire bile system.
Infection with rupture of gallbladder
Inflammation of pancreas (Pancreatitis)
Gallstones are known to be associated with cancer of gallbladder.
How are gallstones detected?
The best way to diagnose a gallstone is an Ultrasound Scan of abdomen. Sometimes an MRI scan of abdomen is needed to detect complications of gallstones.
Does everyone with stones in gallbladder require treatment?
No. Only the gallstones which are causing symptoms need treatment. Silent gallstones (Without symptoms) do not need any treatment except in rare conditions where it is deemed to be increased risk of cancer.
Can people with silent gallstones have symptoms or serious problems related to gallstones?
People with silent gallstones very rarely develop serious problems related to gallstones. They may develop mild or common symptoms first before any serious problems appear. Hence, treatment is usually done when symptoms develop.
What is the treatment for stones in gallbladder with symptoms?
Surgery to remove gallbladder (Cholecystectomy) is the accepted treatment option for people with symptoms due to stones in gallbladder. Surgery is done using minimally invasive way now (Laparoscopic). This involves small one centimeter incisions over the belly through which camera is passed and surgery is done looking at the video. Usually patients are discharged on the same day or next day after surgery.
Can gallstones be dissolved with medicines?
Only a few variety of small sized gallstones can be treated with medicines. But there is always a risk of new stones developing. Hence this option is only used for patients who are not fit enough to undergo surgery. Surgery to remove gallbladder is the best form of treatment for most people with symptomatic gallstones.