Diagnosis & Treatment

How are gallstones (cholelithiasis) diagnosed?

After a physical exam, a doctor who suspects a child has gallstones will typically order an ultrasound test. Ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a child’s internal organs. They are painless and do not expose children to radiation.

How are gallstones treated?

If a child has gallstones, the only effective treatment is surgery to remove the gallbladder.

During the surgery, called laparoscopic cholecystectomy, four small incisions are made on the child's abdomen. A telescope is passed through one of these openings to observe the operation as it is performed with instruments placed through the other three openings. The child will need general anesthesia for the procedure.

In rare cases, an "open" procedure through an incision below the ribs may be necessary. This may be required if there is scarring, inflammation, bleeding or unusual anatomy of the common bile duct which prevents safe performance of the laparoscopy.