Gallstones (cont.)

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What's new with gallstones?

It is clear that genetic factors are important in determining who develops gallstones. Current scientific studies are directed at uncovering the specific genes that are responsible for gallstones. To date, 8-10 genes have been identified as being associated with cholesterol gallstones, at least in animals that develop cholesterol gallstones. Not surprisingly, the products of many of these genes control the production and secretion (by the liver) of cholesterol, bile acids, and lecithin. The long-term goal is to be able to identify individuals who are genetically at very high risk for cholesterol gallstones and to offer them preventive treatment. An understanding of the exact mechanism(s) of gallstone formation also may result in new therapies for treatment and prevention.

Surgery for gallstones has undergone a major transition from requiring large abdominal incisions to requiring only tiny incisions for laparoscopic instruments (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). It is possible that there will be another transition. Surgeons are experimenting with a technique called natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES). NOTES is a new technique for accomplishing standard intraabdominal surgery, but access to the abdomen is through a natural orifice - the mouth, anus or vagina.

Flexible endoscopic instruments similar to the flexible endoscopes presently being used widely are introduced through the chosen orifice, through an incision somewhere inside the orifice (for example, the stomach), and into the abdominal cavity. Thus, the only incision is within the body and not visible on the body's surface. There are potential advantages to this type of surgery, but it is in the early stages of development, and it is unclear what the future role of NOTES will be in gallbladder surgery. Nevertheless, several series of patients have already been described who have had their gallbladders removed via NOTES primarily through the vagina.

Medically reviewed by Venkatachala Mohan, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Gastroenterology

REFERENCE: MedscapeReference. Cholelithiasis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2014

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