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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.

  • 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. – Kate Gregory Apr 8 '17 at 1:31
  • @KateGregory wow! How can I avoid getting gallstones like that in your opinion? – authorized Apr 8 '17 at 3:10
  • That's a different question - ask it as such. I'm probably not qualified to answer, but someone might be able to – Kate Gregory Apr 20 '17 at 17:56
  • @KateGregory Okay – authorized May 4 '17 at 5:58
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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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  • I'm holding off accepting this answer because I'd like to see an answer from a surgeon ( not assuming the answerer is not a surgeon but did not identify as such ) who has done this surgery give their opinion for choice to remove stones or remove whole organ. This answer is logical. I want to see a surgeon address the risk of removing, or not, the gallbladder and removing, or not, the stones separate to it. – authorized Apr 11 '17 at 7:03
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    @authorized Maybe accept it now? There is no way for a surgeon to publicly prove she/he is a surgeon and the links provided are valid. If this hasn't answered your question, I'd ask you to be more specific than just stating that you will only accept a surgeons answer. – Narusan Apr 20 '17 at 17:52
  • @Narusan good point. Let me think about it and I'll come back. Thanks! – authorized May 4 '17 at 5:57
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    @authorized A shame you never bothered coming back. – Carey Gregory Aug 16 '19 at 0:43
  • @authorized, it's not that you need ask a surgeon. It's not that much about complications but about a know fact that gallstones commonly recur after dissolving, so they would also likely recur after removal. – Jan Aug 16 '19 at 10:04

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