Gallstone Diseases

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are stones which form within the gallbladder. The function of the gallbladder is to concentrate bile and store it for use when we eat. The bile is then squirted into the bowels to help digestion.

Gallstones form in the same way that sugar comes out of tea when tea cools – when you put too much sugar into a cup of tea, as the tea cools, it is unable to keep all the sugar dissolved, and therefore it comes forms crystals in the bottom of the tea cup. In the same way, when cholesterol or bilirubin (both found in bile) is found in high concentrations, the bile becomes so “thick” that crystals of these substances form at the bottom of the gallbladder. Over time, more and more substance accumulates on the crystals and they become gallstones.

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Gallbladder Removal (Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy)

What is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy means the removal of the gallbladder (“cholecystectomy”) with keyhole surgery (“laparoscopic”). 

When is this operation required?

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is generally performed for gallstone diseases. As a general rule, once a patient develops symptoms from gallstones, there is a high chance of having further symptoms and other complications from gallstones (inflammation of the gallbladder etc). Not only does gallstones cause pain, it can also cause complications which can potentially be life-threatening such as pancreatitis. It is in these patients which we recommend surgery.

The problem is that gallstones cannot just be removed as the disease is due to the way the gallbladder processes bile rather than simply due to the gallstones itself. That is why the removal of the gallbladder is recommended.

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