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Treatment

At first, your doctor may prescribe pain medication and encourage you to eat a fat-free diet. If the first episode of biliary colic is particularly severe, or episodes of colic keep retuning, surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) usually is recommended. This procedure can be done through small incisions using an instrument called a laparoscope. The procedure usually requires only a brief stay in the hospital, and some people can leave the hospital the same day they have their operation. It is the most widely used treatment in people troubled by painful gallstones, because it is very effective and safe, with no complications in more than 90 percent of cases.

If surgery cannot be done and symptoms of biliary colic are lasting, medication that dissolves gallstones may be used. However, this medication is expensive and can take months or years to work. Also, only small stones will dissolve. Rarely, medication to dissolve gallstones is combined with a procedure called shock-wave lithotripsy, which uses carefully aimed shock waves to break up gallstones. However, in many people treated with medication or lithotripsy, gallstones tend to form again within a few years.

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