Gallstones Size – Does It Matter?

gallstones

Concerned about whether the size of your gallstones matter? It’s first important to understand how Gallstones are detected!

Gallbladder stones are commonplace and surgery performed on the gallbladder is one of the most frequently performed surgeries globally. When gallstones cause problems, and medication to dissolve gallstones don’t work, the most reliable form of treatment is removal of the entire gallbladder(cholecystectomy).

Image of Gallstones
Gallbladder Stones

How are Gallstones Investigated?

The most common investigation for Gallbladder Stones is the ultrasound scan, to confirm the presence of a gallstone or gallbladder disease and rule out any other concerns.

If your doctor is concerned that the problem may not be gallbladder stones but may be an ulcer or acid reflux, he will organise a gastroscopy test. If further investigation is required, your doctor may order a MRCP (Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography) test.

What Does The Size of Your Gallstones Tell You?

Gallstones vary greatly in size, some may form one large stone, whereas others may have hundreds of tiny stones. Most commonly, stones in the gallbladder are 5-10mm in diameter. Typically, it’s the smaller stones that are more likely to cause trouble. This is because smaller stones can travel while bigger ones are more likely to stay put. Trouble arises when gallstones travel and get stuck somewhere and create a blockage.

Additionally, the size of the stone is typically not as important as whether the gallstone is symptomatic or asymptomatic. When stones in the gallbladder become symptomatic, we tend to remove the gallbladder.

When Do We Treat Gallstones

Well, when gallbladder stones cause problems and becomes symptomatic. But not everyone with gallstones will become symptomatic. Approximately 10 to 20% of those with gallbladder stones will ever experience symptoms. Others may experience a single attack, and may mistake it for food poisoning or other digestive issues, and never have another. However, after the first attack, the chances of a subsequent attack can increase dramatically.

Essentially, no matter the size of the stone, it is important that symptomatic stones are treated early because they can lead to more serious complications such as infection of the gallbladder or pancreas inflammation. Patients who have their gallbladder removed electively, tend to have fewer complications and a shorter recovery.