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Do Gallstones Go Away on Their Own?

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Ask a Doctor

I was just diagnosed with gallstones, and my doctor recommended a gallbladder removal. I don’t have health insurance, and I’d like to avoid any surgery, if possible. What happens if I ignore my gallstones? Do gallstones go away on their own?

Doctor's Response

Once a diagnosis of gallstones has been made there are only a few treatment options. Gallstones may go away on their own, but typically they do not and treatment may be required. Gallstones may not always cause symptoms, and in those cases, dietary changes may be all that is needed to prevent complications.

Treatment options for symptomatic gallstones include:

  • Surgical removal of the gallbladder
    • Cholecystectomy – removal of gallbladder and stones
      • People can live normal lives without a gallbladder.
    • Percutaneous removal – a catheter is used to remove digestive enzymes that are blocked by the gallstones in cases where cholecystectomy is not recommended
  • Non-surgical treatments
    • Bile acid salts slowly dissolve and break down the cholesterol that causes gallstones
    • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) – uses sound waves to break up the stones into smaller pieces

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Reviewed on 11/16/2018
Sources: References
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