Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Gallstones that don't cause signs and symptoms
Gallstones that don't cause signs and symptoms, such as those detected during an ultrasound or CT scan done for some other condition, typically don't require treatment.
Your doctor may recommend you be alert for symptoms of gallstone complications, such as intensifying pain in your upper right abdomen. If gallstone signs and symptoms occur in the future, you can have treatment. But most people with gallstones that don't cause symptoms will never need treatment.
Treatment for gallstones that cause signs and symptoms
Treatment options for gallstones include:
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder, since gallstones frequently recur. Once your gallbladder is removed, bile flows directly from your liver into your small intestine, rather than being stored in your gallbladder. You don't need your gallbladder to live, and gallbladder removal doesn't affect your ability to digest food, but it can cause diarrhea, which is usually temporary.
- Medications to dissolve gallstones. Medications you take by mouth may help dissolve gallstones. But it may take months or years of treatment to dissolve your gallstones in this way. Sometimes medications don't work. Medications for gallstones aren't commonly used and are reserved for people who can't undergo surgery.
- Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gallstones/index.htm. Accessed May 13, 2013.
- Understanding gallstones. American Gastroenterological Association. http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/gallstones. Accessed May 13, 2013.
- Choi Y, et al. Biliary tract disorders, gallbladder disorders and gallstone pancreatitis. American College of Gastroenterology. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/gihealth/biliary.asp. Accessed May 13, 2013.
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed May 13, 2013.
- What are the risk factors for gallbladder cancer? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/gallbladdercancer/detailedguide/gallbladder-risk-factors. Accessed May 17, 2013.