If people are unable to go through surgery, there are different treatment options. Here are several alternatives to surgery:
- Medication: In early cases of gallstones, medications such as ursodiol or chenodiol can dissolve some gallstones. They are available as oral bile acid pills. These medications cause thinning of the bile, helping gallstones dissolve. Medication to reduce cholesterol levels in the bile may help dissolve certain types of gallstones, but they are not very effective. These medications usually take years to work and do not prevent a recurrence.
- Extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy (ECSWL): ECSWL is a non-surgical treatment that uses shock waves to break down/fragment the gallstones if they are less than 2 cm in diameter. The shock waves are sent through the soft tissue of the body. This is also used to treat kidney stones.
- Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) Injection: This nonsurgical treatment involves injecting a solvent called MTBE into the gallbladder to dissolve the gallstones. Its side effect could be severe burning pain.
- Endoscopic drainage: This treatment involves passing an endoscope (a thin tube attached to a camera and light) through the mouth, down the throat, and into the gallbladder. A wire is passed through the duct and into the gallbladder. This treatment allows the gallbladder to resume normal bile drainage.
- Percutaneous cholecystostomy (PC): This is a nonsurgical treatment option, but it’s most effective when followed by gallbladder removal. PC is ideal for seriously ill patients who are not fit for surgery immediately. The procedure involves using a needle to withdraw fluid from the gallbladder followed by inserting a catheter through the skin to drain the fluid. The catheter is usually left in place for a few weeks, after which the gallbladder removal surgery may be performed to prevent a recurrence.
- Transmural drainage: It involves creating a new track through the stomach into the gallbladder and a metal stent is placed, allowing the gallbladder to drain into the small intestine.
- Acute cholecystostomy, an ultrasound-guided drainage procedure: In patients with acute cholecystitis, cholecystostomy may be performed for those who are unable to undergo surgery. An endoscopic stent is placed between the gallbladder and intestine to drain the infection.
What are gallstones?
The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located below the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile, a substance secreted by the liver that is required for digestion. Bile contents in the bile may sometimes crystallize and form gallstones. They may be as small as a grain of salt or as large as a tennis ball, causing serious complications.
The treatment of gallstones usually involves surgical removal of the gallbladder. If gallstones are not very large, the doctor may advise nonsurgical treatment methods to dissolve the gallstones. Nonsurgical treatment is typically done for cholesterol gallstones. The other type of gallstones, called pigment gallstones, usually need surgery.
There may be no symptoms in the initial stages. Some signs and symptoms that may develop later are as follows:
Do gallstones require treatment?
If there are no symptoms, observation and regular follow-up may be done. In the presence of symptoms, treatment for gallstones is necessary to relieve symptoms and to avoid serious complications. Surgery may be required if nonsurgical treatments are not possible and if there is a recurrence, with a high risk of complications.
Complications of gallstones may include:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder: Gallstones can block the ducts inside the gallbladder or neck of the gallbladder, causing the gallbladder to become inflamed or infected. This is called cholecystitis. Cholecystitis can cause severe pain and fever.
- Blockage of the common bile duct: A gallstone may pass out of the gallbladder duct and into the main bile duct, leading to bile duct infection that can eventually cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). This causes severe pain, jaundice, and infection.
- Blockage of the pancreatic duct: The pancreatic duct is a tube that connects the pancreas to the common bile duct just before opening into the duodenum. The flow of pancreatic juices, which aid in digestion, gets blocked if the pancreatic duct is blocked by gallstones. This leads to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). It causes intense, constant abdominal pain and usually requires hospitalization.
- Gallbladder cancer: Although extremely rare, having a history of gallstones may increase the risk of gallbladder cancer.
Latest Healthy Living News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Gallstones Related Articles
What Are the Best Foods To Eat When You Have Gallstones?What Are Gallstones? Learn what foods you can eat to manage this condition.
Can Cholelithiasis Cause Cholecystitis?What is the difference between cholelithiasis and cholecystitis?
Can Gallstones Go Away on Their Own?The bile contents may sometimes crystallize and form gallstones. If there are no symptoms, a regular follow-up would suffice. Natural remedies and medical management may prevent worsening of the condition. Treatment is necessary if the stones cause pain or swelling of the gallbladder. Surgery may be required if nonsurgical treatments fail or there is a high risk of complications.
Gallbladder CancerGallbladder cancer is a rare form of cancer with symptoms that include jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal lumps, and bloating. Risk factors include being female and Native American. Treatment of gallbladder cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer, the type of gallbladder cancer, and whether the cancer can be removed by surgery.
Gallbladder Pain: Relief, Causes, and DietGallbladder pain (often misspelled "gall bladder") is generally produced by of five problems, biliary colic, cholecystitis, gallstones, and pancreatitis. Causes of gallbladder pain include intermittent blockage of ducts by gallstones or gallstone inflammation and/or sludge that also may involve irritation or infection of surrounding tissues, or when a bile duct is completely blocked. Treatment of gallbladder depends on the cause, which may include surgery.
Gallbladder PictureFront View of the Gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small pouch that sits just under the liver. See a picture of the Gallbladder and learn more about the health topic.
GallstonesGallstones are stones that form when substances in the bile harden. Gallstones (formed in the gallbladder) can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. There can be just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or any combination. The majority of gallstones do not cause signs or symptoms; however, when they do occur the primary sign is biliary colic. Symptoms of biliary colic are constant pain for 15 minutes to 4-5 hours, and it may vary in intensity; nausea, severe pain that does not worsen with movement; and pain beneath the sternum. Treatment of gallstones depends upon the patient and the clinical situation.
Gallstones QuizWhat are gallstones? Take this quiz to learn why they form and what you may be able to do to prevent them.
14 Best and Worst Foods for Your LiverGet some simple diet tips to keep your liver healthy, including the best veggies to keep disease away and some snacks you'll want to avoid.
How Do I Know if I Have Gallstones?What are gallstones? Learn about how and why they form, signs and symptoms of a gallbladder attack and how they can be treated.
What Are the First Signs of a Bad Gallbladder?A bad gallbladder can have a variety of causes. Learn the signs of a bad gallbladder, what causes a bad gallbladder, how doctors diagnose a bad gallbladder, and what you can do to treat a bad gallbladder.
Why Do You Get Gallstones?The bile contents in the bile may sometimes crystallize and form gallstones. The potential causes of gallstones include high cholesterol, high bilirubin and decreased bladder emptying. Risk factors for gallstones include female gender, age over 40, obesity, weight loss, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, family history, diabetes, liver disease, pregnancy, blood disorder and use of certain medications.