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The gallbladder is a pouch like organ that can hold little stones that form from cholesterol and other crystals.

When people experience pain or other complications from these stones, the common treatment is to remove the entire gallbladder and any stones in the bile ducts either through abdominal or laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.

My question is: why can not one simply open the gallbladder, and remove the stones, then seal the gallbladder?

My question is motivated by a feeling that one should not remove an organ ( even an "unnecessary" organ as is claimed like the gallbladder ) without a good reason. So I'm wondering why I didn't read there was a surgical option for leaving the gallbladder in place, but removing the stones.

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  • Also, "little" - don't be so sure. One of my stones was the size of a kiwi and required my lap incision to be increased substantially just to be able to get the stone out. Apr 8, 2017 at 1:31

2 Answers 2

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According to this article from the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons,

Gallstones do not go away on their own. Some can be temporarily managed by making dietary adjustments, such as reducing fat intake. This treatment has a low, short-term success rate. Symptoms will eventually continue unless the gallbladder is removed. Treatments to break up or dissolve gallstones are largely unsuccessful.

(Emphasis mine.)

The complications of removing just a stone would probably be the same as removing the gallbladder - problems with a general anesthetic, or infections of the incision. But leaving the gallbladder there might expose you to the risk of needing the surgery again. Since life after gallbladder removal is generally reported to be the same as before, except without abdominal pain, removing just the stones would be exposing the patient to more risk (of a recurrence and possibly a second surgery) for no benefit.

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Is no one aware that successful surgery to remove only the gallstone not the gallbladder has been done overseas? Why is this so hush hush we see no mention of it on the internet without intense searching. here it is: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/the-future-of-gallstone-treatment-in-Australia-Hagan/f5ac4248de207742089146a0b96d336367526ccf Let's not keep taking out gallbladders when there is a low-risk surgery procedure ALREADY KNOWN.

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    That article is over 30 years old. Newer research suggests that it's not that surgeons don't know that stones can be removed, but rather that there is debate over which is the better approach and the current consensus seems to be that removing the gallbladder is the best approach. And since SE is an international forum, I don't know what "overseas" means.
    – Carey Gregory
    Dec 26, 2023 at 4:19
  • Ok, how about this one, from 2019? I think this was actually the one i meant to attach...semanticscholar.org/paper/… Dec 27, 2023 at 23:10
  • Okay, thank you. I edited the answer for you to add the link, but in the future when asked for additional info you should edit your question to add it instead of putting it in comments.
    – Carey Gregory
    Dec 27, 2023 at 23:21

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