Is It Possible to Get Gallstones after Gallbladder Surgery?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2019
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It is rare but possible to get gallstones after gallbladder surgery. Gallstones found after gallbladder surgery are usually left over from having a gallbladder but were not found and removed by the surgeon. In some cases, gallstones form in the bile duct, which is normally connected to the patient’s gallbladder. Unusual amounts of pain after surgery can be a sign of a serious problem, and a medical professional should be alerted. In general, however, gallbladder removal is a safe and highly effective surgery that usually prevents the return of gallstones and related pain.

Patients who continue to experience problems related to their removed gallbladder or the surgery have post cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS). PCS is relatively common and refers to any negative side effect of gallbladder removal. A doctor can help narrow down the cause and administer treatment.

Gallstones after gallbladder surgery are uncommon, but sometimes a surgeon misses a stone during surgery. This solitary stone can continue to cause unpleasant symptoms in the patient until its removal. In some cases, a portion of the gallbladder is left in the patient, along with a missed stone. It is usually safe to leave part of a gallbladder inside a patient, but only if it is clear of stones and relatively small.


When a person continues to have gallstones after gallbladder surgery, bile duct stones are one of the first potential problems explored. Bile duct stones can occur months or even years after the removal of the gallbladder. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is often used to remove such stones without surgery, which involves the patient swallowing a scope with an attached light. Even with this minimally invasive cure, the patient is usually asked to stay overnight at a hospital for observation.

Unusual pain in the stomach area should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible. It should not be assumed that a person has gallstones after gallbladder surgery. The pain could indicate potentially dangerous effects of the surgery, for example, injury to a vital organ. Infection and internal bleeding are also possible, but these complications of gallbladder removal are rare.

The gallbladder is not a vital organ, unlike the lungs, heart, and kidneys. It can be removed with mild consequences; for example, some people who undergo gallbladder surgery have diarrhea after eating certain kinds of food. In addition, surgeons can often perform keyhole surgery, which means they operate through a small hole rather than opening the patient further. Patients experience less pain and heal faster when this kind of surgery is used. After recovery, most people no longer experience problems with gallbladder stones.


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