Treatment for gallstones will depend on whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, your age as well as your overall health. If the gallstones cause no symptoms, treatment is usually not necessary. However, if symptoms are present, especially severe pain, then treatment may be required to relieve or eliminate the symptoms.
Depending on the size and type of gallstones, treatment may include surgery, lithotripsy, and oral dissolution therapy.
If your gallstones cause you frequent and severe pain or if you have jaundice, you may be advised to have your gallbladder removed. The most common surgery for gallbladder removal is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen, and then inserts surgical instruments and a miniature video camera into the abdomen. The surgeon uses the camera to sends a magnified image of the organs to a monitor, and uses the instruments to remove the gallbladder and gallstones. But don’t worry, you can still live healthy without your gallbladder. Once the gallbladder is removed, bile flows from the the liver into the common bile ducts and goes directly into the small intestine, instead of being stored in the gallbladder.
- Oral dissolution therapy
Oral dissolution therapy is a non-surgical treatment that uses drugs to dissolve gallstones. However, it is rarely used, as it can only be used for cholesterol gallstones and symptoms usually recur after treatment with medicine has been stopped. This treatment can take months to years for the stones to dissolve.
Lithotripsy is a method that uses ultrasonic shock waves to shatter stones. Ultrasound is used to locate the gallstones, and the shock waves are directed at them until they shatter. This treatment is generally only used for single, small gallstones, because it is not effective for multiple or large stones. As with any treatment that leaves the gall bladder in place, there is a risk of recurrent stones.