As of 2015, surgery to remove the gallbladder is the most common method of treating gallstones, according to Mayo Clinic. Medication is available to dissolve the stones, but may take several years to work. The stones start forming again upon discontinuing medication. Stones that cause no symptoms require no treatment.
Traditional surgery to remove the gallbladder is an open cholecystectomy involving an incision in the abdomen to remove the gallbladder and requiring several days in the hospital. WebMD indicates that laparoscopic cholecystectomy is more common as of 2015. The surgeon passes a camera, instruments and light into the abdomen through a small incision and removes the gallbladder and stones. The hospital stay drops to one night.
If a patient is unable to undergo surgery, Mayo Clinic indicates the use of medication that dissolves the gallstones as an option. Unfortunately, such medication is not always effective and often requires months or years to dissolve stones. If the patient stops taking the medication, stones often return, causing the same problems.
Some patients have gallstones for years without knowing about the condition, according to MedlinePlus. When patients undergo medical imaging for unrelated conditions, the images often reveal gallstones. If gallstones are not causing symptoms, most patients do not require removal of the gallbladder or treatment.