What if gallstones are left untreated?

“I don’t want to undergo surgery. I’m scared that the surgery will be more dangerous than the disease.” “If this happened because my diet is unhealthy, can’t I just fix my diet and take care of this?”

These are some of the questions we hear often at our center while disclosing a diagnosis of gallstones. Most patients are reluctant to undergo surgery, a very understandable and valid response to the situation. You might even have stumbled upon this page because you’ve recently been diagnosed with gallstones and have been advised surgery. This article is for you to understand a little bit more about what is happening in your body and what the standard medical practice towards the same is. Dr. Rengan is an experienced laparoscopic Surgeon who has been performing laparoscopic gallbladder surgery for the past 30 years.

First of all, let’s try and understand what gallstones are and how they cause problems.

What happens after these stones form?

As the stones grow bigger and more in number, more issues start presenting themselves. Gallstones can form anywhere along the biliary tract, and the stones that form in the gallbladder itself are capable of moving into the branches of these tracts as well. In the following image, you can see that the biliary tract connects to 3 main organs from the gallbladder — the liver (from where it receives bile), the duodenum (to where it secretes bile) and the pancreas (which uses the same duct system as the gallbladder to send its secretions to the duodenum).

Depending on the location of the gallstones, different problems can arise:

In the gallbladder itself (Cholelithiasis):

Even in mild cases, the symptoms might be worsened after meals or drinking alcohol. It can be accompanied by bloating and uneasiness. The stones can dislodge and move elsewhere as well. Chronic gallstones in the gallbladder may lead to cancer of the gallbladder (0.1% cases). If the gallstones erode through the wall of the gallbladder from constant inflammation or irritation, it can abnormally join the duodenum (cholecystoenteric fistula) and lead to a small bowel blockage, an emergency condition.

In the common bile duct (Choledocholithiasis):

Originally published at https://surgeonrengan.com

Dr ( Major ) R S Rengan MS, DNB, DLS ( France ) HOME OF HEALING SURGICAL CENTRE. General, Laparoscopic and Gastrointestinal surgeon in Chennai, India.