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Anon asked...

I have just had an ultrasound scan...

I have just had an ultrasound scan which confirms I have gallstones. What treatments/procedures can be used to remove them?

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The answer

Thank you for your question.

With regards to the formation of gallstones, I shall explain the general purpose of the gallbladder & what leads t the stone formation & symptoms that may occur due to this.

  • The gallbladder’s main purpose is to store and concentrate bile (a liquid produced by the liver to help our bodies digest fats). The gallbladder releases bile into the digestive system as it is required. Gallstones are usually small and formed within the gallbladder, as a result of cholesterol.
  • In most cases they do not need treatment.

If you do not have any symptoms, and maintain no symptoms for a long period of time, the condition is unlikely to get worse, and therefore will not need treatment.

To help with prevention or reduction of symptoms, it is important to maintain a low fat diet, as fatty foods can aggravate the problem and cause pain..

Symptoms:

Here are the various symptoms that can occur;

  • Pain - if one of the stones move it may block a bile duct bringing on sudden acute abdominal pain – this is known as biliary colic. The pain can be short, or last between 1-5 hours. Pain is usually central abdominal area (tummy), or can be on the right hand side just underneath your rib area. There can also be associated pain that can be felt in the shoulder blade.
  • This pain is usually constant, and can be triggered by eating fatty foods, or come on spontaneously. This pain does not occur often, and some individuals may experience feeling sweaty, and feel nauseated or vomit.
  • Some individuals may experience more complicated symptoms of pain, accompanied by fever, fast heartrate, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice), itchy skin, diarrhoea, chills, shivering, confusion & loss of appetite. This would usually be caused by a stone permanently blocking a bile duct, leading to inflammation and / or infection. This is known as acute cholecystitis. Management of this usually commences with antibiotics and pain relief with future keyhole surgery to remove the gallbladder (once the inflammation an/or infection has been resolved).

If you do get any symptoms it may be suggested to keep a diary of when the symptoms occur, and for how long as to keep a reference to relate to your GP.

Any changes in your symptoms, including duration, should be reported to your GP, as this may determine decisions on future management or treatment of your condition.

If you would like to read further n the subject, we have included some links below which are a good source of information.

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gallstones/Pages/Treatment.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gallstones/Pages/Complications.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gallstones/Pages/Prevention.aspx

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses