Gallstones (Cholelithiasis)

  • Gallstones are formed from bile excretions from your child's liver.

    Here's how it happens:

    • The liver normally produces bile.
    • It drains into the first part of the small intestine where it aids in digestion.
    • It is stored in the gallbladder between meals.
    • Crystals can form when the bile is stored, and as the crystals grow, they form gallstones.

    Less pain, faster recovery

    Surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital's General Surgery Program are dedicated to treating your child and helping her get better faster. If your child is diagnosed with gallstones, we'll use a minimally invasive procedure called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy to remove your child's gall bladder.

    This surgery allows your child to go home the next day and results in considerably less scarring and pain than traditional open surgery.

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     fax: 617-730-0623

    Boston Children's Hospital at Waltham
    9 Hope Avenue
    Waltham MA 02453
     fax: 781-216-1115

  • What causes gallstones?

    Gallstones can be caused by a number of factors.

    Here's a short list of some of the more common causes:

    How do I know if my child has gallstones?

    Usually your child will experience pain in the right upper or upper middle part of her abdomen or back, particularly after meals.

    • Fatty or greasy foods are often most troublesome.
    • Nausea and vomiting may occur.
  • How are gallstones diagnosed?

    After a physical exam, your child's doctor may order an ultrasound, which can confirm the diagnosis.

  • How are gallstones treated?

    Gallstones must be treated with surgery to remove the gallbladder.

    • There are no successful medical treatments of gallstones either to dissolve the stones or to use ultrasound to pulverize them and let them pass spontaneously through the bile ducts.
    • Stones will almost always reform in the gallbladder if it is not removed.

    What kind of surgery will my child have to remove her gall bladder?

    It's called laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and it's a minimally invasive procedure. Your child will need general anesthesia for the procedure.

    How it works

    During surgery four small incisions will be made on your child's abdomen, through which a telescope is passed to observe the operation as it is performed with instruments placed through the other three openings.

    Your child will have four small dressings (clear plastic bandage over gauze) on her abdomen.

    What about open surgery?

    Rarely, 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.

    Can there be any complications?

    Occasionally, a gallstone remains in your child's bile ducts after removal of the gallbladder. In most cases, the stone can be safely removed by passing a flexible telescope through the mouth and stomach into the first part of the intestine.

    What happens after surgery?

    Your child will go to the recovery room for one to two hours, then to the surgical floor.

    After surgery:

    • Your child may drink fluids the evening after the operation.

    • Your child will receive pain medicine through the IV the evening after the operation.

    • The morning following the operation, if your child is not too nauseous, she may eat breakfast.

    • Your child will be given a prescription for pain medication at time of discharge. Give pain medicine as prescribed and instructed by your doctor and nurse.

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