Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

If you experience pain or other symptoms that you think may be gallstones, visit your doctor.

If you experience pain or other symptoms that you think may be gallstones, visit your doctor.
beginning of content

Gallstones treatment

2-minute read

Gallstones are hard, pebble-like masses that form in your gallbladder, which is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, below your liver.

In many cases, gallstones don't lead to any symptoms, but they can cause pain, fever and jaundice. Most gallstones are small (less than 2.5cm in size) but they can be as large as the gallbladder itself.

Some people with gallstones will not require any treatment. They recover from the episode that brought the gallstones to their attention, and don’t experience any more problems. Some people discover they have gallstones incidentally, but don't have any issues with them.

Others will need treatment for gallstones.

Changes to your diet

For some individuals, gallstones can be treated by simply limiting fatty foods and dairy products.


The most common management of gallstone disease is surgery. Surgeons may remove your entire gallbladder (cholecystectomy), or just the stones from bile ducts.

Cholecystectomy is the most common method of curing gallstones. It does not affect your ability to digest food. You can live a healthy life without your gallbladder — it just means the bile flows directly from your liver to your small intestine.

The most common type of surgery is keyhole or laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Your surgeon will make a few small incisions in your abdomen, insert a miniature video camera and instruments, remove the gallbladder and stitch the incisions closed. The trapped gallstones can be removed at the same time.

If your gallbladder is very inflamed you may need open surgery, which requires a larger cut.

Keyhole surgery is better for most people because recovery is usually faster. You may be able to go home the day after your operation. If you have open surgery, on the other hand, you may need to stay in hospital for several days.

Medicines for gallstones

There are medicines that may be used to dissolve gallstones but they are not very effective and some have side effects. The gallstones return after treatment, so using medicines to treat gallstones is not commonly recommended.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Gallbladder - gallstones and surgery - Better Health Channel

Medical treatment for gallstones may not be necessary unless the gallstones cause symptoms.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Gallstones: symptoms, causes, complications and treatment

The most common symptom of gallstones is recurrent attacks of pain in the upper abdomen or the back, known as biliary colic.

Read more on myDr website

Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) | HealthEngine Blog

Cholecystitis refers to inflammation of the gallbladder. It is typically a complication of gallstones, a condition which affects 10-20% of people.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Laparoscopy -

Laparoscopy is a procedure that can be used to investigate and treat a variety of conditions. A laparoscope is used to view inside the abdomen or pelvis.

Read more on myDr website

ERCP for pancreatic and biliary disease information | myVMC

ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) is a procedure for viewing from the mouth to the duodenum to diagnose pancreatic or billiary disease.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

How your food is digested -

The digestive system is a series of hollow organs such as the stomach and small intestine. Digestion starts in the mouth with the production of enzymes.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo