Gallstones are most commonly detected by ultrasound. Sometimes this is an incidental finding when the scan has been done for another reason. Often in this type of situation we will recommend to leave the gallstones alone. This is all to do with a balance of risk from the operation to treat gallstones compared with the likelihood of further problems happening in the near future.Occasionally further tests need to be done. This might be a type of MRI or a study of the gallbladder function called a HIDA scan.
There are many non-surgical treatments advertised, especially on the internet. This includes Apple Cider Vinegar and Olive oil. Unfortunately there is inadequate evidence supporting their effectiveness and so we do not recommend their use. There is also a medicine sometimes prescribed when a patient is not fit for surgery (Ursodeoxycholic acid) but the effect on resolution of gallstones is too slow to be recommended.In most cases, when someone’s risk from an anaesthetic is acceptable, we will recommend an operation. We remove the gallbladder, stones and all. This is through a keyhole approach in 90% of cases, though there are some reasons why the approach needs to be changed to the traditional open cut. That is most often to complete the operation in the safest way to avoid complications.
During the procedure, we usually pass some die down the drainage tube and take an xray to see if any stones have dropped down. If they have, sometimes we can get them out during this operation but other times we need to organise a second procedure.
In most cases, the operation is around one hour. People usually stay in hospital for one night and return to most of their normal duties after about one week. No heavy lifting is recommended for four weeks.