print   Print full article


Treatment for gallstones that cause pain is an operation called cholecystectomy. This is usually done by key-hole surgery and normally involves only an overnight stay in hospital. The operation is undertaken some weeks after an attack to let the gall bladder settle down before surgery.

Alternatives to surgery can only be used in a few patients. These include shattering the stones with shockwaves, injecting a solution to dissolve the stones or medication. If the gall bladder is not removed through surgery then long-term treatment is required to prevent new stones.

If gallstones are picked up by chance, but have caused no pain, then no treatment is required.

Gallstones in the common bile duct need to be removed urgently. An ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) is a variation of an endoscopy. A thin, long flexible tube (endoscope) is used to reach the common bile duct and dye is injected to outline the stone. The exit of the tube can be widened and the stone removed.

In most patients with gallstones in the common bile duct the gall bladder will also be removed to prevent future stones.

Last Review Date: March 6, 2017