Gallstones are formations of large particles, ranging from the size of a grain of sand to over a centimeter across, that form in the gall bladder. They precipitate from bile, an organic detergent produced by the liver, which assists the body to digest fat. For reasons that are not clear, in some patients either salts or fats precipitate out of the bile, forming particles which grow in the gall bladder until they are expelled through the bile duct. However, some stones become lodged in the bile duct, where the pressure continues to push on the stone until it is dislodged. However, if the stone is not dislodged, bacteria can travel up the bile duct to the gall bladder, causing it to become inflamed.
The symptoms caused by gallstones can vary from discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen below the ribcage for several days, accompanied by a fever and loss of appetite. However, they can also cause extremely painful acute attacks which usually last for several hours.
If untreated, a gallstone may resolve itself, but if it does not, the gall bladder may become seriously infected and in severe cases can burst, causing peritonitis.
Persons with an acute gallstone attack, or cholecystitis, are generally hospitalized, given intravenous fluids and antibiotics until the pain and fever subside, and are watched to determine if the pain worsens, in which case an open incision cholecystectomy is indicated. Otherwise, the symptoms usually subside and a less invasive laparoscopic cholecystectomy is performed after the patient fully recovers.
Unfortunately, despite claims made otherwise in the advertising sections of this web page, once gallstones begin to form in a patient, it is likely they will continue to form until the gall bladder is removed.