Because of the health risks that bile duct stones in and around the liver represent, taking medications and undergoing lithotripsy are the least invasive methods to help patients cope with this disorder. Bile duct stones appear in the liver, bile duct or gallbladder, notes Virginia Mason Medical Center.
The first sign of a bile duct stone in or around the liver is pain in the right upper abdomen, where the gallbladder and liver sit. In some patients, the pain begins slowly and feels dull and intermittent, while in others, the pain starts sharply and remains intense. The pain can also shift from the abdomen to the shoulder or upper back, according to Virginia Mason Medical Center.
When a bile duct stone blocks the duct, inflammation can set in, as well as a host of unpleasant symptoms including nausea, chills, fever, dark urine, fatigue and greasy stools. The medications used to dissolve a bile duct stone are generally bile salts that dissolve the cholesterol that makes up the stones. The problem with relying on medication is that stones can return when the medication stops.
Lithotripsy involves the use of sound waves to break the stones up. In cases with multiple stones, whether they are in the liver, bile duct or gallbladder, the surgical intervention is to take the gallbladder out and remove the stones surgically from the bile duct or liver, when applicable, as stated by Virginia Mason Medical Center.