General Surgeon, Darwin


What is the gallbladder?

Bile is made in the liver, and stored in the gallbladder until the body needs it.

Eating fatty foods triggers the gallbladder to squeeze bile into the small intestine. Bile helps with digestion of fatty food.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are small, hard deposits that form in the gallbladder. In most people gallstones do not cause any problems, and 7 out of 10 people have no symptoms. When gallstone do cause symptoms, prompt treatment is usually required.

Why do gallstones form?

Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin (a waste product). There is no single cause of gallstones. If bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, it can harden into gallstones.

What symptoms can gallstones cause?

The most common symptoms include pain in the stomach area (abdomen) and back, especially after eating a fatty meal (biliary colic). This usually occurs when a gallstone blocks the drainage of the gallbladder. This can lead to inflammation and infection of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). Gallstones can block the normal flow of bile from the liver, if they move from the gallbladder and lodge in any of the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine (obstructive jaundice). Occasionally a gallstone may also block drainage of the pancreas and cause pancreatitis.

What are the treatment options?

Medical treatment may not be necessary unless gallstones produce symptoms. Treatment may include dietary modifications (limiting or eliminating fatty foods and dairy products). If you have frequent episodes of pain, you may need laparoscopic (key-hole) surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). ERCP is uncommonly performed, to remove gallstones from the main bile duct.







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