Bile is produced in the liver and plays a central role in the digestion and absorption of fat. Bile is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder and then released in response to a meal. The body also uses bile to get rid of excess cholesterol. Cholesterol in bile is kept soluble by the presence of bile salts. Any imbalance of the cholesterol: bile salt ratio can lead to the precipitation of cholesterol and the formation of cholesterol stones.

Gallstones are a common problem, increasingly so in females and with advancing age. Gallstones are mostly formed when cholesterol crystallizes in the gallbladder which then leads to it gradually enlarging. Gallstones may also be caused by excess breakdown of red blood cells. The presence of gallstones could affect the functioning of the gallbladder which could lead to the patient experiencing discomfort.

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

Fortunately, gallstones will remain asymptomatic in the majority of patients. When gallstones do produce symptoms, it can be any of the following:

How are gallstones treated?

If gallstones are completely asymptomatic surgery might not be necessary. Dr Cooper may discuss surgery with you if the gallstones become symptomatic (see above). A cholecystectomy is performed in a minimally invasive (laparoscopic) manner as soon as any of the above symptoms / complications develop.

Major cholecystectomy complications are minimal: