Gallstones | Treatment


How are gallstones usually treated?

You and your doctor will talk about your situation and decide what is right for you. If you have gallstones but no pain, chances are good that the stones won't be a problem for you. Your doctor might suggest you leave them alone.

Once you have one gallbladder attack, the chance of having another one is high (about 70%). Many doctors will suggest surgery to remove your gallbladder to prevent a future attack. If your gallbladder is irritated or inflamed, most doctors will want to take it out right away. The surgery is safe and effective. Without surgery, the gallbladder can get infected. It might even burst open, causing further problems.

Are there other treatments?

Other treatments are available for people who would have a high risk in surgery because they are elderly or have heart problems or lung disease. However, gallstones usually return when they are not treated with surgery.

Your doctor might be able to use sound wave therapy to break up the stones so they can move into the intestine without problem. However, not everyone can receive this treatment. If you have more than 1 gallstone, if your gallstone is large or if you have other medical conditions, you may not be able to receive sound wave therapy.

You might also take a pill to dissolve the stones. This pill does not work for all people and can be very expensive. Surgery is still the best way to cure gallstones. Talk with your doctor about what is right for you.


Management of Gallstones and Their Complications by A Ahmed, M.D., RC Cheung, M.D., and EB Keefe, M.D. (American Family Physician March 15, 2000,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 03/00