Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Gallstones

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located on the right side of your abdomen, just below the liver. Gallstones are hardened deposits that form in your gallbladder when your bile contains too much cholesterol. Symptomatic gallstones usually require gallbladder removal surgery, whereas asymptomatic gallstones do not require treatment. 

There are essentially two types of gallstones:

  • Cholesterol Gallstones (Most Common Type) – These yellow gallstones mostly contain undissolved cholesterol.
  • Pigment Gallstones – These dark brown or black gallstones contain too much bilirubin. 

Depending on your gallstone type and overall health condition, your doctor may choose to perform surgical or offer non-surgical treatments. 

Surgical Treatment Options for Gallstones

Cholecystectomy (surgery to remove the gallbladder) is the most common method to treat pigment gallstones. Your doctor may perform the surgery either laparoscopically (minimally invasive) or invasively under general anesthesia. 

  • Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy  

    About 3 or 4 small incisions are made in the abdomen, and then a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens is inserted through one of the incisions to remove your gallbladder. You can go home on the same day and resume your routine activities in a week. 

  • Open Cholecystectomy  

    This surgery is performed when your gallbladder is severely infected, inflamed, or scarred from other surgeries or if problems occur during laparoscopic cholecystectomy. During the procedure, your doctor will make larger incisions in your abdomen to remove your gallbladder. You may need to stay in the hospital for a week for further observation. It can take a month to recover and get back to your normal activities.

Non-Surgical Gallstone Treatment Options

Your doctor may recommend any of the following non-surgical procedures if you have cholesterol stones and cannot undergo surgery due to underlying medical conditions. 

  • Oral Dissolution Therapy – Medications such as chenodiol and ursodiol containing bile acids may be administered to dissolve small gallstones. However, it can take months or years to dissolve all of the gallstones.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – This procedure is performed to remove gallstones that get stuck in the common bile duct. 
  • Shock Wave Lithotripsy – This is another option to break gallstones into small pieces. However, this procedure is performed at times with ursodiol medicine. 

Tips to Ensure a Healthy Gallbladder

Follow a Healthy Dietary Plan

You can reduce your risk of developing gallstones by following a healthy and well-balanced diet. The following are some food items that you may consider incorporating into your diet:

  • Eat nuts, meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables rich in protein, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.
  • Increase your dietary calcium, fiber, and vitamin C intake.
  • Drink coffee and only a moderate amount of alcohol. 
  • Avoid fatty, sugary, and processed foods.
  • Stay hydrated.

Some Other Tips to Keep Your Gallbladder Healthy:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid overeating.  Instead, eat several smaller meals that are easy to digest.
  • Try losing weight gradually if you are overweight or have obesity. 

If you are looking for gallstone treatment near Anchorage, AK, contact us today! 


Dr. Madhu Prasad, M.D., FACS

Dr. Madhu Prasad has over 30+ years of experience working as a general surgeon and surgical oncologist and providing the highest level of care in Anchorage, Alaska. He believes in providing quality care to patients and their families. Inspired by compassion and humanism, Dr. Prasad and his team work for the well-being of their patients.

Common Surgical Procedures

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