Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Understanding Gallstones -- Diagnosis and Treatment

    How Do I Know if I Have Gallstones?

    If your symptoms suggest a gallstone problem, your doctor might first examine your skin for jaundice, and then feel your abdomen to check for tenderness. A blood test may reveal evidence of an obstruction.

    Because other digestive problems, such as an infection of the duct, can produce symptoms similar to those of a gallstone attack, the doctor may also run other tests to determine if gallstones are in fact the culprit.

    Understanding Gallstones

    Find out more about gallstones:

    Basics

    Symptoms

    Diagnosis and Treatment

    Prevention

     

    The most common technique is an ultrasound exam. This quick, painless procedure uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the gallbladder, bile duct, and their contents. CT scans are also sometimes done to look at the anatomy of your internal organs.

    A more complicated test may be used if the doctor suspects that a gallstone is lodged in a bile duct. Commonly known by the acronym ERCP, this test allows the doctor to look at the bile duct through a small flexible tube called an endoscope. The doctor sprays the back of the patient's throat with an anesthetic drug to prevent gagging, sedates the patient, and passes the endoscope into the mouth, through the stomach, and into the area of the small intestine where the bile duct enters. Dye is injected through the tube and into the bile duct, and then the doctor takes X-rays. Stone removal can be done during this procedure as well. The procedure takes about an hour.

    What Are the Treatments for Gallstones?

    In most cases, treatment of gallstones is considered necessary only if you are having symptoms. Of the various conventional treatments that are available, surgical removal of the gallbladder is the most widely used. Some alternative treatments have also been found to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of troublesome gallstones.

    Conventional Medicine for Gallstones

    When deciding what course of action to take for symptomatic gallstones, doctors usually choose from among three main treatment options: Watchful waiting, nonsurgical therapy, and surgical removal of the gallbladder.

    Gallstones and Watchful Waiting

    Though a gallstone episode can be extremely painful or frightening, almost a third to half of all people who experience an attack never have a recurrence. In some cases, the stone dissolves or becomes dislodged and thereby resumes its "silence." Because the problem may solve itself without intervention, many doctors take a wait-and-see approach following the initial episode.

    Even when the patient has had repeated gallstone episodes, the doctor may postpone treatment or surgery because of other health concerns. If your surgery has been delayed, you should remain under a doctor's care and report any recurrences of gallstone symptoms immediately.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    man holding his stomach
    Get the facts on common problems.
    blueberries in a palm
    Best and worst foods.
     
    woman shopping
    Learn what foods to avoid.
    fresh and dried plums
    Will it help constipation?
     
    diverticuliltis illustration
    Slideshow
    couple eating at cafe
    Article
     
    sick child
    Slideshow
    Woman blowing bubble gum
    Slideshow
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Woman with crohns in pain
    Slideshow
    Woman with stomach pain
    Slideshow
     
    diet for diverticulitis
    Video
    what causes diarrhea
    Video