Gall Stone Disease

The Liver makes bile and drains it into a long tube (the bile duct) that joins the intestine. Bile is a solution that helps to dissolve fats that we eat, in water (so that we can absorb them). Around 1 in 10 adults have gallstones. These stones can cause irritation to the gallbladder, particularly when fat is consumed, causing pain and nausea (biliary colic).

Predisposing factors

We are unsure why certain people get stones and others don’t. Some factors that have been found to be associated with gall stones are:

  • Female gender
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Increasing age
  • Obesity

What are the common symptoms of gall stone disease?

  • Gall Stones are often silent, and detected on ultrasound of the abdomen.
  • Biliary Colic
  • It is pain or discomfort, in the upper abdomen, usually bought on by food.

Severe Complications of Gallstones

  • Acute Cholecystitis
  • Acute cholecystits is a severe infection of the gallbladder. It begins like biliary colic, but fails to improve, and is often associated with fever.

Jaundice and Cholangitis

If stones escape from the gallbladder into the bile duct, they may cause partial or complete blockage of the bile duct. This will lead to abnormalities of the liver function blood tests. When severe, jaundice with dark urine and a fever indicate an infection of the bile duct (cholangitis).


This is an inflammation of the pancreas which is a digestive organ at the back of the abdomen. Small gallstones that have escaped from the gallbladder into the bile duct can pass past the pancreas and cause it to become inflamed. Pancreatitis can range from a minor pain through to a severe life threatening illness. The gallbladder is usually removed as soon as possible after a bout of pancreatitis, so that there is little chance of a further attack.

Gallbladder Cancer

Gallbladder cancer is a rare condition that usually affects older people with a long history of biliary colic. Gallstones predispose to the cancer.

How is the gallbladder removed?

The most common method of removal of the gallbladder is with laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery

What is the post-operative course after Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy?

The post-operative course is different for each person. Most patients stay one night in hospital. If there is a drain it will generally be removed the morning after surgery, just prior to discharge.

A follow-up appointment is made 5 days after surgery. You may eat and drink normally after a day or two, although very rich foods are not recommended in the first week.