Gallbladder stones, known as cholelithiasis, are pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder, a small organ just below your liver. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, a fluid that helps digestion and is made in the liver. It is also responsible for carrying bilirubin and cholesterol that break down red blood cells. Stones in the gallbladder may be formed due to this. Gallstones may vary in size from as small as a grain to as big as a golf ball. They may block the bile duct, causing immense pain that needs immediate treatment.
Gallstones may be of two types:
- Cholesterol stones- they are the most common ones, usually yellow-green
- Pigment stones- they are made of bilirubin and are smaller and darker in colour
In case a person has stones in the gallbladder, they may experience:
- Severe stomach upset
- Vomiting and nausea
- Pain in the right shoulder or back
- Digestive issues like heartburn, gas, indigestion, etc
You need to visit the doctor immediately if there are signs of serious inflammation or infection, like:
- Yellow eyes or skin
- Fever and chills
- Light coloured stool or dark urine
- Stomach ache lasting for hours at a stretch
Even though the exact causes of gallstones have not been ascertained, doctors believe they may occur if:
- There is too much cholesterol in your bile which does not get dissolved during digestion.
- There is too much bilirubin in your bile due to excess infection or other medical conditions like cirrhosis.
- Your bile is too concentrated as your gallbladder does not empty.
Procedure to Diagnose Gallbladder Stones
On visiting the physician, they may ask the patient to get specific tests conducted, which would enable the doctor to ascertain the type, location, and size of the stone. These tests include blood tests to reveal any infection and the level of infection in the body.
To see the stone, there would be further examinations and screening through Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography(MRCP) which makes pictures of the inside of your body, including the gallbladder and liver. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is for better viewing of the bile ducts and Cholescintigraphy (HIDA scan) to identify whether your gallbladder is working the way it should.
Treatment and Procedure of Gallbladder Stones Surgery
Smaller stones may pass without having to be treated, while others may need proper medications or surgery.
If bladder stones are not treated and are left unattended, they may lead to severe infections and other complications.
Most people get their gallbladder removed if they get gallstones as they can still digest food without it. There are two ways of removing the gallbladder which your doctor may follow:
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy- Under this procedure, a narrow tube, called a laparoscope containing instruments, light, and a camera, is passed through the belly by making a small cut. Another small cut is made through which the gallstones are taken out. The patient is released the same day if they undergo this surgery.
Open cholecystectomy- It is open surgery. Under this procedure, a bigger incision is made in the stomach to remove the gallstones.
In case the stones are found in your bile duct, the doctor may use ERCP to locate and remove them before or during the surgery.
Oral dissolution therapy- If you are suffering from other medical conditions, your doctor might advise you not to undergo surgery and as an alternative, they may suggest the following medications:
- Chenodiol (Chenodiol) and
- Ursodiol (Actigall, Urso 250,
These medicines may cause mild diarrhoea. This treatment is best for breaking down cholesterol stones.
Shock wave lithotripsy- Under this treatment method, shock waves are passed through the patient, which enables the breaking down of gallstones.
Percutaneous drainage of the gallbladder- Under this procedure, a sterile needle is placed into the gallbladder to allow bile to be drawn out from it. Another tube is inserted to allow additional drainage.
Cost of Gallbladder Stones Removal Surgery
In India, there are many low-cost treatment packages available. However, the minimum charge for bladder stone treatment may vary depending on the treatment.
Risks and Side Effects
The risk factors for bladder stones involve a family history of bladder stones, living with obesity, undergoing rapid weight loss, having a high cholesterol diet and low fibre diet, being more than 60 years of age, being pregnant, having cirrhosis, taking medicines which are high in oestrogen like certain birth control pills, etc.
There are many hospitals in India with experienced departments dealing in gallbladder stone removal surgery. They offer the best treatments for gallbladder stones, one of them being Max Healthcare. You can log on to their website for more details, or to book a consultation on the same.