Gallstones are pieces of hardened cholesterol and/or bile pigments that form in the gall bladder. They are usually not a cause of concern, unless they get trapped in the opening of the gallbladder. This may result in intense, chronic pain known as biliary colic, which may last for several hours.
What causes gallstones?
Gall stones result from an imbalance in the concentration of cholesterol and bile inside the gallbladder.
Who is at risk?
People at risk for developing gallstones tend to be:
- 40 years and older
Diagnosis of Gallstones
Doctors will usually perform a physical exam when they suspect gallstones. Further test may include:
- Blood tests:
- to check for signs of infection or obstruction, and to rule out other medical conditions
- Imaging investigations:
- Ultrasound – to see inside your body
- CT scan – special x-rays used to see inside the body
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) – magnetic field and pulses of radio-wave energy used to see inside of the body
- Upper GI endoscopy to rule out other causes of abdominal pain such as peptic ulcers
- Endoscopic ultrasound. A combination of ultrasound and endoscopy to look for gallstones in the bile ducts
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Can visualise the bile ducts and remove any stones
Treatment of Gallstones (laparoscopic cholecystectomy)
Patients might need surgery to remove gallstones. The most common surgery is known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which involves the removal of the gallbladder and gallstones through several small cuts (incisions) in the abdomen.
How is Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy Performed?
This surgery is performed by keyhole technique under general anaesthesia and usually takes less than 1 hour.
Post Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy Surgery
The surgery is usually done as a day case or with overnight stay in the hospital, depending on your health condition.
Removal of the gallbladder has little or no effect on digestion. Light diet is recommended for the first 1-2 weeks after surgery.
You will be able to return to normal routine after 2 weeks. There is no requirement for any special diet thereafter.