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Is Surgery Always Necessary for Gallstones?

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are referred to formation of small stones within the gallbladder. This small pouch shaped organ is located on the right upper part of the abdomen just beneath the liver. The function of the gallbladder is to store bile which is extremely essential for digestion of food.

High cholesterol in the bile is believed to be the primary cause of gallstones constituting to about 75% of overall cases of gallstones. The remaining 25% are formed due to excessive calcium content in the bile. When the liver starts producing more cholesterol that what the bile is able to absorb then there is gradual accumulation of this excess cholesterol which over time leads to formation of gallstones.

In some cases excess of bilirubin also results in the formation of gallstones. This happens especially in individuals who have a damaged liver. This results in the liver producing excess of bilirubin which is not able to be absorbed by the gallbladder.

This gradual accumulation of excess bile ultimately results in gallstone formation. Whether or not surgery is always the solution for this condition is what has been discussed in brief below.

Is Surgery Always Necessary for Gallstones?

Is Surgery Always Necessary for Gallstones?

Gallstones block the pancreatic enzymes from going to the small intestines to aid in digestion. This causes a backflow of these enzymes back into the pancreas. This is what causes the characteristic pain observed in individuals with gallstones.

The standard mode of treatment that has been followed up until now is to remove the gallbladder within a month of disease diagnosis so as to prevent any recurrence of inflammation or pancreatitis.

A study recently conducted in the United States which involved around 20,000 patients that were under 60 years of age showed that 75% of the patients had gallbladder surgery within the span of the month of symptom onset and of them only about 12% had a recurrence.

Of the remaining patients who did not have the gallbladder removed with the specific time frame had to get that done within six month of the onset of the condition. However, the startling fact about this study was that there were around 2000 patients who did not have surgery did not have recurrence even after four years of disease diagnosis.

Researchers are still not clear as to why some people required surgery for gallstones while others did absolutely fine without it and opined that more research needed to be done to get the answers.

However, there was a consensus that it may be possible that surgery may not always be necessary to treat gallstones even though they did not think that a change in the current practice of treating gallstones was warranted.

The researchers admitted that the data available was more hypothetical and more in depth analysis and research was required become coming to a conclusion that surgery is not always necessary to treat gallstones.


      1. Mayo Clinic – Gallstones: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gallstones/symptoms-causes/syc-20354214
      2. Cleveland Clinic – Gallstones (Cholelithiasis): https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17377-gallstones-cholelithiasis
      3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) – Gallstones: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones
      4. WebMD – Gallstones: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/gallstones
      5. Verywell Health – Gallstones: What You Should Know: https://www.verywellhealth.com/gallstones-514264

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 3, 2023

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