Gallstones

At the Henry Ford Liver Disease Center, we provide evaluation and treatment of gallstones, a digestive disorder that causes severe abdominal pain. Our highly skilled gastroenterology team offers comprehensive care and minimally invasive procedures.

As one of the most sought after referral centers in the region, our goal is to help minimize your pain and restore your health.

Gallstone care at Henry Ford: Why choose us

Patients come to Henry Ford from throughout the Midwest and the country for accurate diagnoses, advanced treatments and access to expert physicians. Features of our care also include:

  • Minimally invasive treatments: Our world-class surgeons perform hundreds of gallbladder surgeries every year. They specialize in less invasive laparoscopic techniques (gallbladder and gallstone removal via four to five small keyhole incisions in the abdomen) to access the gallbladder.
  • Individualized care plans: Our specialized team tailors treatment to your unique symptoms. Our goal is to choose the least invasive, most effective options for you.
  • Comprehensive care: We work with you to coordinate your appointments, find accommodations and plan for treatment and recovery.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that form in your gallbladder.

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located below your liver on the right side of your abdomen. It is responsible for storing bile, an important digestive fluid that the liver makes.

Gallstones vary in size and shape. Some are as small as a grain of sand; others are as large as a golf ball.

Risk factors for gallstones

Researchers believe the development of gallstones is caused by a combination of risk factors, including:

  • Age: Your risk increases as you get older.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop gallstones.
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Family history of gallstones

Symptoms of gallstones

Most often, gallstones cause no signs or symptoms. Some people may have gallstones for years and not know it.

However, when gallstones lodge in the neck of the gallbladder, bile duct (forming bile duct stones) or pancreatic duct, causing a blockage of bile, symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain and pain between the shoulder blades
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • High fever with chills

How are gallstones diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing signs of gallstones, our experienced team will use one of our many effective diagnostic tools on hand, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Sophisticated liver imaging tests: To take detailed pictures of your entire gastrointestinal system. These include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans.
  • Minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures: These are advanced procedures using an endoscope (a thin, flexible lighted microscope) and an advanced fiber optic camera to look down your throat and examine your gallbladder, bile ducts and surrounding organs.

Learn more about endoscopy and liver disease diagnosis at Henry Ford.

Gallstones treatments at Henry Ford

Our expert team will work with you to design a treatment plan that fits your individual needs. Our treatments include:

  • Medications
  • Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy): We specialize in less invasive laparoscopic techniques to access the gallbladder, which often means less pain and a faster recovery for you.
  • Endoscopic stenting: Minimally invasive procedure that relieves blockages in the gallbladder using small mesh tubes to stretch the bile duct

Learn more about our treatments at Henry Ford.

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