Gallstone treatment

Here you will find details regarding the laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedure used to treat gallstones. For more information please contact your consultant.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are caused by a chemical imbalance in the body that results in the formation of tiny crystals in the gallbladder (see figure 1). These crystals can grow to the size of a small pebble over the years and are known as ‘gallstones’. Gallstones are a common condition and have a tendency to be hereditary. They are more likely to develop in people over 40 years old and those who eat a high-fat diet. Sometimes gallstones can cause internal blockages which can cause serious symptoms. The most common symptom is recurring abdominal pain.

Why choose surgery?

Surgery will allow you to eat a normal diet without pain and help to avoid the risks to your health that gallstones can pose. In some cases, the gallstones can be dissolved without surgery but the success rate is low using these techniques and the medicines involved might produce uncomfortable side effects. You may also be able to control the extent of your symptoms by eating a low-fat diet. However, this will not get rid of your gallstones and symptoms may recur.

What happens during surgery?

A general anaesthetic will be administered and the procedure takes around an hour. A few tiny incisions will be created in the abdominal region. This allows the surgeon to insert tools, such as a telescopic instrument, into the right area to perform the surgery, whilst watching what they are doing on a video monitor. First, the cystic duct and artery will be freed; then the gallbladder will be removed from the liver and from your body.

What complications should I be aware of?

As with any surgical procedure, there are complications that could occur.

  • General risks associated with this procedure include pain; bleeding; infection at the site; scarring; an incisional hernia (where a hernia develops under the scar); blood clots.
  • More specific risks include structural damage to the bowel, bladder, or blood vessels; surgical emphysema; bile leakage; retained stones; continued pain; diarrhoea; inflammation of the internal lining of the abdomen; allergic reaction; injury to the bile duct; injury to the liver.

How long does it take to recover?

You can expect to go home the following day after surgery and to go back to work after two to four weeks. Your healthcare team will be able to provide advice dependent on your particular line of work and the extent of your surgery. Exercise can help you resume normal levels of activity but seek advice from your GP or healthcare team before you begin.


A laparoscopic cholecystectomy removes the gallbladder to alleviate the symptoms of gallstones.

References: EIDO Healthcare Limited – The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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