Did you know that gallstone formation is the most common reason for hospital admission worldwide? Countless individuals head to the hospital each year with gallbladder pain as a result of gallstone formation, and they are usually met with two courses of treatment. Below, we take a closer look at the two main treatment options for gallstones and help explain which option may be right for you.
Gallstone Treatment Options
Gallstone treatment is somewhat unique in that there is typically only two main courses of action. There’s the non-invasive medication route that hopes to break down the gallstones so they can safely pass through the bile ducts, and there’s the minimally invasive surgical route that removes not just the gallstones, but the entire gallbladder. Here’s a closer look at both methods.
Medications for Gallstones
Upon reading those two options, the majority of people are inherently interested in the medication option. It would be great is modern medicines could break down gallstones quickly and easily, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Medications are typically reserved for patients with very small gallstones and those who are ineligible for surgery or a high-risk surgical option. That’s because medications often takes months or years to dissolve the gallstones, and there’s no guarantee that they will work, meaning you’re in discomfort this whole time. Moreover, many patients experience a recurrence of gallstones if they stop their medications. As you can see, medications are often a costly and somewhat ineffective route for treating painful gallstones.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
The much more common route for dealing with the formation of gallstones is with a minimally invasive cholecystectomy procedure. The gallbladder stores bile for release to help break down food particles, but it’s not a vital organ. Bile can be released directly from the liver without needing to be stored in the gallbladder, so oftentimes it’s much easier to deal with the gallstones and prevent any future recurrences by removing the entire gallbladder. Using a couple small incisions, the surgeon will go in and carefully detach the organ. Bile will flow directly from the liver to the small intestine once the procedure is complete, so your body will rely on more real-time bile production as opposed to being able to release it when necessary. Eating smaller, non-fatty meals can help your body make this transition, but once the gallbladder is removed, so too will any issues with your gallstones.
The procedure is very straightforward and has great success rates, and considering it eliminates any possible recurrences, it’s easy to see why surgery is often the preferred method. It may take some dietary and lifestyle changes to fully adapt to life without a gallbladder, but the majority of patients say it’s worth the trade off to be free from gallstones.
For more information about gallstone treatment, or for help with your discomfort, reach out to Dr. Koeplin’s office today.