Best Treatment Options for Gallstones

The treatment for gallstones depends on the severity of the symptoms and whether complications are present. Treatment options include:

Watchful waiting: Most of the time, you won’t need treatment for gallstones unless they cause you pain. Sometimes you can pass gallstones without even noticing. If gallstones are small and not causing any symptoms, a doctor may recommend monitoring the condition and not treating it unless symptoms develop.

Surgery: The most common treatment for gallstones is surgery. There are two types of cholecystectomy:

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This is a common surgery that requires general anesthesia. The surgeon will usually make three or four incisions in your abdomen. They’ll then insert a small, lighted device into one of the incisions, check for stones, and carefully remove your gallbladder. You can usually go home on the day of the procedure or the day after if you have no complications.
  • Open cholecystectomy.This surgery is typically performed to remove the gallbladder when the gallbladder is inflamed, infected, or scarred. This surgery may also happen if problems occur during a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. You may experience loose or watery stools after gallbladder removal. Removing a gallbladder involves rerouting the bile from the liver to the small intestine. Bile no longer goes through the gallbladder and it becomes less concentrated. The immediate result is a laxative effect that can cause diarrhea, but this issue should resolve on its own for most people.

Medications: Certain medications, such as ursodiol, can dissolve cholesterol gallstones. However, this treatment may take several months to be effective and is not effective for all types of gallstones.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): In some cases, gallstones can be removed from the bile ducts using a special endoscope that is passed through the mouth and into the small intestine.

Shock wave lithotripsy: This treatment uses shock waves to break up gallstones into smaller pieces that can be passed naturally.

Percutaneous drainage of the gallbladder involves placing a sterile needle into the gallbladder to aspirate (draw out) bile. A tube is then inserted to help with additional drainage. This procedure isn’t typically a first line of defense and tends to be an option for individuals who may not be suited for other procedures.

The best treatment option for gallstones depends on the individual case and should be discussed with a healthcare professional. It is important to treat gallstones to prevent complications such as infection or inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas.