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GALLSTONES



What are gallstones?

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located below your liver in the upper abdomen to the right. Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in the gallbladder.


Do people need their gallbladder?

Fortunately, the gallbladder is an organ people can live without. Your liver produces enough bile to digest a normal diet. Once the gallbladder is removed, bile flows out of the liver through the hepatic ducts into the common bile duct and directly into the small intestine, instead of being stored in the gallbladder. Because now the bile flows into the small intestine more often, softer and more frequent stools can occur in about 1 percent of the people. These changes are usually temporary but talk to your health care provider, if they persist.


Why do gallstones form?

Gallstones form when chemical imbalances cause cholesterol in the bile to become less soluble and to crystallize. These chemical imbalances could be due to a poor diet, an unhealthy liver, excessive drugs and ingested chemicals, stagnant bile, or simply the individual's natural tendency.


Can I have gallstones even if the X-ray or ultrasound is negative?

Yes. The major component of most gallstones is cholesterol which is not radio-opaque. This explains why many gallstones do not show up on a plain X-ray; only stones with a high calcium content are radio-opaque and visible. Ultrasound scans have a better chance of detecting gallstones, but may still miss stones in the bile ducts and the liver .


How are gallstones treated?

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy ("Keyhole" Gallbladder Surgery). In "keyhole" surgery to remove the gallbladder, four small incisions are made around the abdomen, including one in the navel through which a tube with a tiny video camera is inserted. Guided by the camera images on a video screen, other tiny instruments are inserted through the other incisions and the diseased gall bladder is removed. "Keyhole" surgery has replaced traditional open surgery as the preferred method to remove the gallbladder, thanks to shorter surgery time, a shorter hospital stay, and a shorter recovery period. Among all the invasive methods of treatment, it offers the fastest relief from gallstone colic. If you have been diagnosed with gallstones but feel no pain, do not wait until the symptoms develop, consult your doctor for advice.


How do I know if I have gallstones?

Ultrasound scanning is the most common method used to detect gallstones. Gallstones are often discovered unintentionally during scans or X-rays for other concerns. They may exist for many years without notice, if they remain in the gallbladder. Gallstones can occasionally cause severe upper abdominal pain. This pain can radiate to the back, the shoulders and even the back of the neck. When they block the flow of bile, the bile and its toxins back up into the liver and seep into the bloodstream, causing jaundice.


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