Most Frequently Asked Questions about Gallstones

The best Gallbladder surgeon in Hyderabad, Dr. Datta Ram U answers…

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ situated beneath the liver. The primary function of the gall bladder is to store and concentrate bile secreted by the liver. The gall bladder has a tremendous water-absorbing capacity as it concentrates bile and digestive fluid and releases bile into the small intestine.

Do Gallbladder stones always cause problems?

No, though 15-20% of the population in India and elsewhere (some regions, the incidence is much higher) have Gallstones, the majority of them are asymptomatic. In them, the stones are detected incidentally. Some of them develop symptoms over time and some develop complications due to gallstones, which can be very serious. Silent/ asymptomatic gallstones do not cause any problems even if they are large. However, when they get inflamed or irritated, they can cause problems.

Is surgery the only treatment for gallbladder stones?

Unfortunately, Surgery is the only treatment for those who have symptoms due to gallstones and for those who develop complications. Unlike kidney stones, gallstones are different and the problem can be cured only by removing the gall bladder by surgery. 

Am I at risk of getting gallstones?

The following factors may increase your risk of gallstone formation: having a family history of gallstones, a low-fiber diet, a high-fat diet, a sedentary lifestyle, age 40 years or above, being female, eating a high-cholesterol diet, and having diabetes.

If I drink more water, can I be able to get rid of gallbladder stones?

No, you cannot get rid of your gallstones by drinking more water. It is always good and healthy to keep yourself hydrated.

Are there any alternative methods to get rid of gallbladder stones?

No, surgery is the only and the best treatment even today. The problems of gallstones can be serious and we urge patients not to try any unproven, unconventional treatment for gallstones as sometimes the complications of Gallstones can be serious and life-threatening. Medicines are useful if there is an infection and a doctor prescribes antibiotics and analgesics to temporarily relieve pain. In general, there is no proven and effective medical therapy for gallstones.  

Is treatment necessary for all gallstones?

Yes, treatment is necessary for patients who have symptoms. Those who do not have any kind of symptoms or complications can wait and follow up with the surgeon and gastroenterologist and consider surgery when they develop the slightest symptoms. Surgery (Gallbladder removal, Cholecystectomy) is the best and only treatment for symptomatic patients. 

Is there any possibility of removing only gallstones and retaining the gallbladder through surgery?

No, it is not possible to remove the stones alone and retain the gall bladder.  Many patients ask me the same question when they consult me. The reason is, that the gallbladder does not have any vital function, and once the stones are formed the gallbladder function is lost. The gallbladder is the only site where the stones are formed and if we retain the gallbladder, stones and the related problems are going to come back. Furthermore, one should understand that technically it is not possible to remove the stones alone as it can cause bile leak and serious complications. Gall bladder removal is the simplest treatment and offers a cure for the problem.

Which is the best treatment for gallstones?

The best treatment for gallstones is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This is the only and the simplest treatment.  Surgery cures the problem and the stones are not going to come back. You will get rid of the gallstone problem. Once symptomatic it is always advisable to get the surgery (Gallbladder removal) as soon as possible because once you develop symptoms, the symptoms are not only recurring, but the risk of developing complications also increases significantly.

Can medicines dissolve and remove gallstones?

No, medicines do not work for dissolving and treating gallstones. This is the biggest myth about gallstones and patients are often lured by the myth by unconventional therapists and fall into the trap of ineffective treatments. UDCA (Urso de oxy cholic acid) is a drug that helps in obstructive jaundice and may help from the stone size increasing. But this is not an effective therapy and I don’t advise this medicine for treatment because the drug is not only expensive, needs to be taken indefinitely (long-term therapy), and overall, it is ineffective in curing stones and preventing symptoms or complications. In my opinion, there is no effective medical therapy.

Are gallstones hereditary?

Yes, gallstone formation is hereditary as almost 30 to 35% of gallstone cases run in families.

What are the complications of gallstones?

Gallstones can cause serious complications.

  • Infection of the gall bladder (calculus cholecystitis), pus formation (empyema), perforation, and gangrene (severe infection, the gall bladder can break and cause serious complications which can be life-threatening.
  • Jaundice and cholangitis- Gallstones can spill into the bile duct and block the bile duct. When the bile duct gets blocked, the stone hinders the flow of bile and the patient will develop jaundice, i.e., yellowish discoloration of the eyes. There is also an upward spread of infection into the bloodstream and the patient develops a high-grade fever (Cholangitis, a serious condition). The patient can become sick and septic, requiring ICU care, IV antibiotics, and an intervention called ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) for bile duct stone removal and relief of bile duct obstruction.
  • Mirrizzi syndrome- a gallstone stuck in the neck part of the gall bladder can cause compression of the bile duct and erode into the bile duct, this can block the bile duct and cause jaundice and cholangitis.
  • Acute pancreatitis- gall stones can spill into the intestine through the bile duct and while passing through, they trigger Acute Pancreatitis which is a serious and life-threatening condition.  Gallstones are the leading cause of Acute pancreatitis. This can further get complicated by organ failure, necrosis (death of tissue) of the pancreas and the tissue around the pancreas, and the necrotic tissues can get infected (Infected Pancreatic necrosis) which is a serious condition. 

What are the signs and symptoms of a serious gallbladder complication?

Many people don’t have any clue about the complications of a troubling gallstone. If you develop intense or severe abdominal pain that doesn’t let you sit still or find a comfortable position. If you also have a high fever with chills and jaundice (yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes), then you must seek immediate medical care.

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If you are searching for the best surgeon for gallbladder removal in Hyderabad, then meet Dr. Datta Ram U.

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