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What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are small, hard deposits in the gall bladder. They are very common and in 80% of the people, they do not cause any discomfort. However, if they cause pain or swelling in the upper abdomen, it is necessary to seek proper treatment.

What causes gall stones to form?

The gallbladder makes bile to digest your food. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile, gallstones are formed. Sometimes, gallstones also form because of calcium or bilirubin.

Symptoms / when to call your doctor

You must reach out to your doctor if you have:

  • Acute pain in the abdomen extending to upper back or right shoulder

  • Shivering and fever

  • Jaundice

  • Clay coloured stools or dark urine

  • Severe nausea and vomiting

Why you should see a doctor?

Having gallstones is quite common and is not a concern in 80% of the people. However, if you have symptoms, getting the correct treatment is important.

Ignoring the symptoms can lead to:

  • Acute pain

  • Inflammation of the gallbladder and organs surrounding the gallbladder

  • Obstruction of bowels

  • Very large stones may even lead to gallbladder and bile duct cancer

How is it diagnosed?

Gallstones are diagnosed through a simple ultrasound. This is used to find the size of the gallstones. Based on the size, the doctor recommends the treatment- either medication or surgery.

Dietary Restrictions

After the surgery, your digestive system takes some time to recover completely. You should introduce solids slowly and eat frequent meals to recover fast.

What you can eat:

  • Liquids

  • Simple, bland nutrient dense food

  • High fibre foods like sprouts, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains

What you should avoid:

  • Foods high in fat content like red meat

  • Dairy Ex Milk, cheese, butter

  • Processed food like pizza, cake, cookies

  • Coffee and alcohol

Treatment for Gallstones

Gallstones which are smaller in size (Generally less than 1cm) can be treated by Medication however larger size stones needs to be removed by surgery. It's always advised to consult a specialist.

Types of treatments:

SpecificsLaparoscopic SurgeryTraditional Surgery
Cuts and WoundsNoNo
PainMild painYes
RecurrenceNoNo
Dietary RestrictionSmall modifications in dietYes
Recovery Time24 hours1-2 Months
InvasiveNoYes

Laparoscopic Procedure

The procedure involves the use of a laparoscope, a long, thin probe. The surgery is performed through small incisions made in the abdomen.

Flow of the procedure:

  • Patient is given general anaesthesia for the procedure

  • Small incisions are made in the abdomen

  • A tiny camera is inserted into the incision

  • The camera footage is visible on a screen which guides the doctor to perform the surgery

  • Once the gallbladder is removed, an X ray or ultrasound may be conducted to check for stones or any other problems

  • The incisions are sutured and the patient is taken to the recovery area

Recovery Time and Dietary Advice:

  • 1 Day procedure with mild pain

  • Resume normal routine from next day

  • Simple, bland, nutritious, fibre rich food

  • Visit the doctor 2-3 weeks after the surgery for a check-up

  • If you have symptoms like fever, pus from the incisions, jaundice or severe pain, reach out to your doctor immediately

Risks involved in the treatment:

There are very less complications through this laser treatment. Some of the risks may be:

  • allergic or adverse reaction to anaesthesia or other drugs

  • bleeding

  • blood clots

  • damage to blood vessels

  • heart problems, such as a rapid heart rate

  • infection

  • injury to the bile duct, liver, or small intestine

  • pancreatitis

Traditional Procedure

The traditional procedure involves a large cut made in the abdomen which is sutured after the procedure is complete.

Flow of the procedure:

  • Patient is given general anaesthesia for the procedure

  • A large cut is made in the abdomen

  • The gallbladder is directly removed from the incision

  • Once the gallbladder is removed, an X ray or ultrasound may be conducted to check for stones or any other problems

  • The cut is sutured and the patient is taken to the recovery area

Recovery Time and Dietary Advice:

  • Hospital stay of 2-4 days or longer

  • Resume normal day routine after 4-6 weeks

  • Liquid diet for a couple of days after which solids can be introduced

The procedure involves a large cut. So, some of the risks may be:

Some of the risks of the procedure may be:

  • Injury to the common bile duct.

  • Bile that leaks into the abdominal cavity.

  • Excessive bleeding.

  • Infection of the surgical wound.

  • Injuries to the liver, intestines, or major abdominal blood vessels.

  • Blood clots or pneumonia related to the longer recovery period after open surgery.

  • Risks of general anaesthesia