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Gallstones - Topic Overview

Your ultrasound may not show gallstones. But if your doctor still thinks you have a problem with your gallbladder, he or she may order a gallbladder scan. In this test, a doctor injects dye into a vein in your arm. Then a machine takes X-rays as the dye moves through your liver, bile duct, gallbladder, and intestine.

Most people have gallstones but don't know it because they do not have symptoms. Gallstones may be found by accident when you have tests for other health problems or when a woman has an ultrasound during pregnancy.

If you do not have symptoms, you probably do not need treatment.

If your first gallstone attack causes mild pain, your doctor may tell you to take pain medicine and wait to see if the pain goes away. You may never have another attack. Waiting to see what happens usually will not cause problems.

If you have a bad attack, or if you have a second attack, you may want to have your gallbladder removed. A second attack means you are more likely to have future attacks.

Many people have their gallbladders removed, and the surgery usually goes well. Doctors most often use laparoscopic surgery. For this, your surgeon will make small cuts in your belly and remove your gallbladder. You will probably be able to go back to work or your normal routine in a week or two, but it may take longer for some people. Sometimes the surgeon will have to make a larger cut to remove the gallbladder. It will take longer for you to recover from this type of surgery.

Your body will work fine without a gallbladder. Bile will flow straight from the liver to the intestine. There may be small changes in how you digest food, but you probably will not notice them.

Learning about gallstones:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Living with gallstones:

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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