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What is the Best Gallstone Treatment?

The best gallstone treatment varies, often depending on the size and symptoms. Options range from medications that dissolve stones to surgeries like cholecystectomy. Lifestyle changes can also be pivotal. Each method has its pros and cons, visualized here through insightful images. Wondering which approach might be right for you? Let's examine these treatments together and consider your path to relief.
Amy Hunter
Amy Hunter

There are several treatments available for gallstones. Each has benefits and drawbacks. It is important for patient and doctor to work together to determine which gallstone treatment makes the most sense for each individual patient.

It is not unusual for gallstones to have no symptoms. If a patient is not suffering from discomfort or other health problems because of gallstones, the doctor may recommend no gallstone treatment. If they begin to cause problems, the doctor can then treat the gallstones using one of several procedures. Surgical removal of the gallbladder is the only proven gallstone treatment that will prevent gallstones from returning, which makes it the preferred treatment method for most patients.

A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.

Surgical treatment of gallstones includes the option of laparoscopic surgery or traditional surgery. In laparoscopic surgery the doctor inserts a tube that has a light and camera attached into the patient. The tube is inserted through the abdomen. The camera allows the doctor to easily see inside the abdominal cavity and remove the gallbladder through several other small incisions within the abdominal wall.

In some patients, gallstones do not exhibit symptoms.
In some patients, gallstones do not exhibit symptoms.

Traditional surgery is not as popular of a gallstone treatment as laparoscopic surgery. It involves a large surgical incision in the abdominal wall, which means a long and strenuous recovery period. Traditional surgery is used if the gallbladder is infected or the abdomen has scar tissue from previous surgeries.

Nonsurgical gallstone treatments include several options. Sound wave therapy uses high frequency sound waves to break up the gallstones. You are then given a prescription medication, ursodiol, to dissolve the fragmented gallstones. Some patients are able to bypass sound wave therapy and take ursodiol as treatment for gallstones. This works best if the gallstones are small and are not causing the patient much discomfort.

Undergoing laparoscopic surgery is one treatment option for gallstones.
Undergoing laparoscopic surgery is one treatment option for gallstones.

Two other nonsurgical solutions to gallstones are available. Both involve inserting a catheter before the procedure. In the first, percutaneous electrohydraulic lithotripsy, a catheter is inserted into the gallbladder to send bursts of energy into the gallstones to break them up. This procedure is time-consuming and not widely available. It is generally only used for people who need to avoid surgical procedures.

An ultrasound may be used to investigate gallstones.
An ultrasound may be used to investigate gallstones.

A relatively new procedure is called topical gallstone dissolution. Medication is delivered into the gallbladder through a catheter. The medication dissolves the gallstones. This treatment shows promise, but is still new enough that it is not widely available.

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Discussion Comments

anon311541

Can you tell me the best medication for gallbladder problems?

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    • A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
      By: Alila
      A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
    • In some patients, gallstones do not exhibit symptoms.
      By: roblan
      In some patients, gallstones do not exhibit symptoms.
    • Undergoing laparoscopic surgery is one treatment option for gallstones.
      By: Grzegorz Kwolek
      Undergoing laparoscopic surgery is one treatment option for gallstones.
    • An ultrasound may be used to investigate gallstones.
      By: acherst
      An ultrasound may be used to investigate gallstones.
    • Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help prevent gallstones.
      By: lirtlon
      Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help prevent gallstones.