Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. In most cases they don't cause any symptoms and don't need to be treated. Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others develop many gallstones at the same time. Some people with gallstones can also develop complications, such as inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), which can cause:
• persistent pain
• a fever
HOW IS GALLSTONES DIAGNOSED?
Tests used to detect gallstones or gallbladder inflammation include:
• Ultrasound, abdomen
• CT scan, abdomen
• Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
• Gallbladder radionuclide scan
• Endoscopic ultrasound
• Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
• Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA)
• Liver function tests
• Pancreatic enzymes
HOW IS GALLSTONES TREATED?
Surgery is not needed unless the symptoms begin to appear. People who have symptoms will need surgery right away or soon after the stone is found. A technique called laparoscopic cholecystectomy is most commonly used. This procedure uses small surgical cuts, which allow for faster recovery. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and a procedure called a sphincterotomy may be done to find or treat gallstones in the common bile duct.
DID YOU KNOW?
Many risk factors for gallstones are related to diet. These include:
• being overweight or obese
• eating a diet that’s high in fat or cholesterol
• rapid weight loss within a short period of time
• eating diet that’s high in fiber
• having diabetes mellitus