When Do You Need an Operation for Gallstones? Gallstone Risks, Treatment Options, and More

Gallstones are known as small and solid fragments, which usually form in the gallbladder when the gallbladder does not function correctly. In many cases, gallstones don’t come with any symptoms, but if your gallstones suddenly block or go into a bile duct, this can result in what specialists refer to as a ‘gallbladder attack’. Gallbladder attacks are accompanied by an intense and searing pain in the belly, akin to feeling like you are being slashed by a knife, and this pain can last for more than a few hours. If this occurs, you will need surgery or an operation. But what else should you learn about the risks of having gallstones, what are your treatment options, and what can you expect with surgery? Here are the answers to all your gallstone questions.

The risks of untreated gallstones

As already mentioned, gallstones are hard and tough fragments that are small and found in the gallbladder. In most instances, they don’t need to be removed as they don’t cause any symptoms. But there are certain risks associated with having gallstones as well. One risk is of getting an inflamed bladder, which is known as cholecystitis. Another risk is getting inflamed pancreas, known as pancreatitis. And yet another risk is getting your bile ducts inflamed, which is called cholangitis.

Tests prior to gallstone surgery

Gallbladder surgery London experts confirm that before you can have surgery, you have to go through several tests first. The tests include a blood test as well as an ultrasound, and it may also include an MRI HIDA or hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan. This is where the specialist will put a radioactive chemical into the body so it can produce images of blocked bile ducts.

Another test would be endoscopic ultrasonography, where a device for imaging is placed in the mouth and pushed through to the digestive tract; sound waves can then create an image of the small intestine.

Your options before an operation

If you are not too eager about the idea of surgery for your gallstones, there are some other options you can try first. You may alleviate your symptoms and manage them for a short period by making dietary changes such as avoiding fatty foods. But a dietary change doesn’t always prevent a gallbladder attack. If you cannot have surgery, your specialist may prescribe medication for dissolving the gallstones, although this can take months (and as many as a few years) to finally work. What you should remember too is that even if your gallstones do dissolve over time, they may well come back.

Recovering from surgery

If you do decide to have surgery for your gallstones or you have a gallbladder attack, your recovery will depend on the kind of surgery performed, as the gallstone surgery London specialists from The London Surgical Group confirm. With open surgery, for instance, you will have to stay in hospital for a few days, and it may take from six to eight weeks to fully recover from it. Laparoscopy, on the other hand, will involve a series of small cuts, and it doesn’t give as much pain, and you can heal in a quicker manner as well. Most patients who have laparoscopic surgery can go home on the same day, and you may be back to normal within two weeks.