Gallstones have become quite a common condition, and it’s one of those conditions that affect anyone, young or old (but it is more common as you get older, of course). The gallbladder is an organ that keeps bile, and we need bile to help us digest our food. If it is not in optimum condition, it may form fragments, which can be tiny (smaller than a rice grain) or big (some have been known to reach the size of a golf ball!). So if you have gallstones, the biggest question is: Is surgery necessary? Perhaps you don’t have any symptoms – for now – but bear in mind that it will not go away by itself. In fact, the chance is good that it will become bigger or may develop some complications later on. So what should you do about your gallstones, and why (and when) is gallstone surgery necessary? Here is some advice from the experts.
The basics: what you need to know
As mentioned, if you have been diagnosed with gallstones, know that they will not go away. If your gallstones begin to cause an obstruction or hurt you in any way (or you experience any other symptoms), it’s best to remove the gallbladder, which will involve either open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. The surgery performed by a gallstones London expert (like a surgeon from the London Surgical Group) is referred to as a cholecystectomy. The good news is that it is one of the – if not the – most common and popular types of surgeries performed anywhere in the world today. Around 80 per cent of those who have gallstones will end up needing surgery, anyway – as confirmed by the Londonsurgicalgroup.co.uk, who have done their share of gallbladder surgeries.
Do you need it?
Now, after reading the basics, your biggest question remains: do you need it? To tell you honestly, if the gallstones don’t give you any cause for alarm – in short, if they don’t come with any symptoms – you probably won’t need to undergo surgery. But once a gallstone gets into a bile duct, this is known as a ‘gallbladder attack’ – and it is accompanied by a piercing, intense pain in the abdomen that can be as long as a few hours, then you most probably need surgery.
Also, if you suffer from a blood disorder like sickle cell (or any other blood disorder), you may be advised by your surgeon to undergo surgery, just as a precautionary measure, even if there are no symptoms.
But here’s where it gets tricky – if gallstones are not treated, they can lead to complications or more severe issues such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), or cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts).
What you can expect before surgery
Before your surgeon recommends surgery, they will do a few tests to determine how the gallstones are affecting your health and well-being. They may, for instance, perform a blood examination, an ultrasound, an MRI HIDA scan, or endoscopic ultrasonography.
If you don’t opt for surgery
If you choose not to undergo surgery, you may be able to manage the symptoms on your own by making a change in lifestyle and diet, including staying away from fatty and oily foods. But this won’t prevent a gallbladder attack. If you cannot have surgery, you can take medication to help dissolve the gallstones, but this may take months, even years – and the gallstones can always return.