Gallstones are hard particles that develop in the gallbladder. Your gallbladder stores and releases bile, which consists of bile salts, bilirubin, and cholesterol.
Gallstones form when you have too much cholesterol or bilirubin, or not enough bile salts. The majority of gallstones are made from excess cholesterol.
Gallstones vary in size. They may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. You can develop one large gallstone, hundreds of small stones, or a combination of both.
You may not have any symptoms if your gallstones don’t block the bile ducts, the tubes that carry bile between the liver, gallbladder, and small intestine. When a duct is blocked, pressure builds up in the gallbladder and causes a gallbladder attack.
Gallbladder attacks often occur after you eat a heavy meal, especially one that was high in fats. The primary symptom is pain that may be constant or intermittent, mild or severe. You may feel the pain in your upper right or middle abdomen, between your shoulder blades, or in your right shoulder.
If the ducts stay blocked, inflammation and infection can develop. An untreated blockage can become a life-threatening condition. Please contact your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms:
Once your gallstones begin to cause symptoms, and especially if they block ducts, treatment usually requires cholecystectomy, which is surgery to remove the gallbladder. Of course, before deciding to undergo surgery, the severity of your condition is determined with lab tests and diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, or cholescintigraphy.
The surgeons at General Surgical Care often perform cholecystectomy using laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopy is a minimally-invasive procedure performed through several small incisions, so you have less discomfort, minimal scarring, and a quicker recovery.
A laparoscope, a long narrow tube that holds a camera, is inserted through one incision. It gives your surgeon the ability to see your gallbladder, then perform surgery using specialized instruments inserted through the other incisions.
If you have any physical complications due to your gallstones, such as infection and inflammation, or if you have scarring from a previous surgery, your cholecystectomy may need to be done using standard, open surgery.
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