Stones form in the gallbladder when the liver makes more cholesterol than can dissolve in bile.

The most common symptom of gallstones is severe pain in the upper tummy which often moves around to the back. Often the pain is brought on by fatty or oily foods and wakes you up at 2 in the morning.

Your general practitioner typically requests a blood test (LFT: liver function tests) and an ultrasound scan to help make the diagnosis.

Treatment for gallstones which cause symptoms is by removing the gallbladder. This keyhole operation is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Gallstones are not suitable for blasting as is sometimes done for kidney stones.

Most patients go home on the day of surgery or the next morning.

Typically, recovery takes 2 weeks.


Less than 1 / 100 patients need a reoperation for bleeding, leakage of bile, infection or damage to internal organs.

The most common post-operative complaint is diarrhea (1 out of 10 patients). Occasionally the original pain does not go away, or recurs.

Sometimes an endoscopic procedure (ERCP) is required.

This intraoperative image shows the gallbladder (and stones within it) as well as the gallbladder duct and artery.

The cystic artery and duct are divided during the operation and the gallbladder is then removed off the liver and extracted through an incision near the bellybutton.