Dr.Anand Patel

Understanding The Different Types of Gallbladder Stone and Their Issues, Diagnosis, Treatments, and Surgery

gallbladder stone treatment

Gallbladder Stone are solid deposits that develop in your gallbladder, a small organ beneath your liver. When a specialist for gallbladder talks about it, they often refer to the condition as cholelithiasis. The gallbladder’s primary role is to store and release bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Bile helps break down fats and carries away cholesterol and waste like bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cell breakdown. When the components of bile are imbalanced, gallstones can form.

These stones vary in size, from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. You might have a single large stone, many small ones, or a combination. Often, you won’t realise you have gallstones until they block a bile duct, causing pain. Let’s take a look in depth!

Types Of Gallstones Explained By A Specialist For Gallbladder:

  • Cholesterol stones: These are usually yellow-green and primarily composed of undissolved cholesterol. However, it can also contain other substances like bilirubin or bile salts. These cholesterol stones are the most common type, accounting for about 80% of all gallstones.
  • Pigment stones: Brown or black gallstones are primarily made of bilirubin. These types of stones often occur in people with liver disease or blood disorders like sickle cell anaemia or leukaemia.
  • Mixed stones: The most common type of gallstones is mixed stones, made up of cholesterol and salts. These stones usually develop in batches.

Symptoms Of Gallstones:

You might have gallstones without realising it. Symptoms usually occur when gallstones block bile flow from your gallbladder to your small intestine, leading to a gallbladder attack or biliary colic. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper right abdomen, just under the ribs
  • Pain in the lower chest, right shoulder, or back
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Digestive issues like indigestion, heartburn, and gas

Gallstones can sometimes pass independently, but immediate consultation with a specialist for gallbladder may be necessary in certain situations. Seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Severe or constant belly pain lasting more than 2 hours
  • Fever with chills
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

Untreated gallstones can lead to complications like infection and inflammation. It’s crucial to consult a specialist for gallbladder, as a gallbladder attack can mimic other serious conditions like appendicitis, ulcers, or pancreatitis.

Diagnosis Of Gallstones:

A Specialist for gallbladder may perform several tests to diagnose gallstones and related conditions for gallbladder stone treatment:

  • Blood tests: These check for signs of infection or blockage and help rule out other conditions.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: This imaging technique creates pictures of your internal organs, showing gallstones in the gallbladder or signs of inflammation.
  • CT scan: Specialised X-rays provide detailed images of your body, including the gallbladder and surrounding areas.
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP):  This test creates detailed images of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts.
  • Cholescintigraphy (HIDA scan): A radioactive material is injected to assess gallbladder function and distinguish between gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) and gallstones.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): A procedure where an endoscope is inserted through your mouth to examine the bile ducts, injecting dye for clearer imaging.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: This test is used to detect gallstones in challenging locations like the common bile duct as it passes through the pancreas.

These tests help a specialist for gallbladder accurately diagnose gallstones and determine the appropriate gallbladder stone treatment.

Gallbladder Stone Treatment:

If you don’t have symptoms, you usually don’t need treatment, as small gallstones can often pass on their own. However, to prevent complications or address a gallbladder attack, a gallbladder stone operation might be necessary.

Gallstone Removal

Most people with symptomatic gallstones require gallbladder removal, as the body can still function without it because the liver continues to produce bile. There are two main procedures for gallbladder removal:

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

  • Procedure: This is the most common method. The specialist for gallbladder makes small incisions and inserts a narrow tube called a laparoscope, which has a light and camera. Through this special instrument, the gallbladder is removed through another small incision.
  • Recovery: Patients usually go home the same day.

Open Cholecystectomy

  • Procedure: This involves larger incisions to remove the gallbladder. It is typically required for patients with severe gallbladder disease, bleeding disorders, larger body size, or those in the last trimester of pregnancy.
  • Recovery: Patients stay in the hospital for a few days.

Both gallbladder stone operation are performed under general anaesthesia, ensuring the patient won’t be awake during the procedure.

Gallbladder Stone Treatment Without Surgery

If surgery is unsafe due to a medical condition, nonsurgical options are available to manage and treat gallstones. These treatments may involve regular or lifelong care to remove or break up the stones.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

  • Procedure: This technique can remove gallstones lodged in the bile ducts. A flexible tube with a camera is inserted through the mouth into the small intestine, allowing the specialist for gallbladder to remove the stones.


  • Types: Chenodiol (Chenix) and ursodiol (Actigall) contain chemicals that dissolve small cholesterol gallstones.
  • Usage: This gallbladder stone treatment needs to be taken for years to break up the stones effectively. However, gallstones may recur after stopping treatment. Mild diarrhea can be a side effect of this drug therapy.

Shock Wave Lithotripsy

  • Procedure: Rarely used, this gallbladder stone treatment employs shock waves to break up gallstones. It is often combined with medication like ursodiol to help dissolve.

These nonsurgical treatments provide alternatives for managing gallstones, especially when surgery is not a viable option.

Wrapping Up:

Gallstones, often asymptomatic, can cause notable issues when blocking bile flow. Treatment ranges from surgical options like laparoscopic and open cholecystectomy to nonsurgical methods for those unsuitable for surgery, such as ERCP, medications, and shock wave lithotripsy. Accurate diagnosis through various tests is essential for effective management. Consulting a specialist for gallbladder ensures the best treatment approach, preventing complications and managing symptoms effectively.

Dr. Anand Patel

Dr. Anand Patel

Dr. Anand Patel, holding an MS and DNB in Surgical Gastroenterology, as well as an FMBS in Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, authors this article on the website. He ensures all information is sourced from reliable research conducted by himself and fellow specialists, providing authentic insights and expertise.