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Gallstones? New Device Makes Gallbladder Removal Unnecessary


Do you know someone who had gallstones and had their gallbladder removed? Perhaps it was you. But in the future, use of a new device may make gallbladder removal unnecessary.

Gallbladder removal is a common surgery

Surgery to remove the gallbladder, known as a cholecystectomy, is one of the most common surgeries done in the United States, performed on more than half a million people each year. The surgery is chosen when other methods, such as medications or ultrasound to break up the stones (lithotripsy) have not been successful in relieving symptoms or eliminating the stones.

Conventional cholecystecomy involves removing the gallbladder by one of two methods: laparoscopically through four small incisions in the abdomen with the assistance of a tiny video camera; or through one large incision in the abdomen. Both methods are associated with side effects and complications, although the laparoscopic technique, which is more common, is less risky.

A team of scientists in China, however, have developed a device that allows removal of gallstones without taking out the gallbladder. The patented, specially designed endoscope allows clinicians to locate and remove gallstones and other gallbladder lesions by sucking them out of the body like a vacuum.

In the American Institute of PhysicsReview of Scientific Instruments, the scientists describe how the ultrasonic probe at the end of the endoscope can find even the smallest gallstones. The new device also has a channel so fluids can be injected into the gallbladder to make it easier for clinicians to do the procedure, and it also can connect to any type of camera system.

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Use of the new device was compared with another type of endoscope at two hospitals, and there was reportedly “no significant difference” in safety between the two methods. In addition, the authors report that the new device provides better flexibility, reliability, and image quality than existing methods.

Gallstones are pebble-like objects that form when liquid (bile) stored in the gallbladder hardens. Bile is a mixture of water, proteins, fats, cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin, which is a waste product.

Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Two types of gallstones can occur: those composed largely of hardened cholesterol, which is the case about 80% of the time; or pigment stones, which are composed of bilirubin.

The exact cause of gallstones is not known, although there are established risk factors. Some of them include

  • Diet high in cholesterol and fat and low in fiber
  • Rapid weight loss, which causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile, which in turn can cause gallstones
  • Being overweight, as this reduces the amount of bile salts in bile, which in turn increases cholesterol
  • Age over 60, because the body secretes more cholesterol into bile as we age
  • Use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, which can raise the amount of cholesterol secreted into bile

Development of this new device that makes gallbladder removal unnecessary is a significant advance and will be most welcome by individuals who develop gallstones that need to be removed. The new device is not yet available in the United States.

American Institute of Physics, paper accepted for publication in the Review of Scientific Instruments
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Image source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Updated 2/4/2016



When will this new procedure be used in the UK and worldwide
I don't know. You might want to contact a knowledgeable urologist in your area, at a hospital, medical school, or private practice, and express your interest in this procedure. Perhaps someone at the American Institute of Physics (link in the article) can provide some information as well.
Than you for your answer.I believe this new treatment has recently been pioneered at BMI Hospital Yorkshire.Thank you
I hope you find the help you are looking for. Good luck.
Please could you let me know which exact hospital in Yorkshire does this? Thank you so much for your answer in advance.
Hi - have you been able to find a UK hospital pioneering this new surgery? Thanks. Carole
This is a reply to my enquiry re availability in the U.K. Hello ! The dean of the medical college of Chinese University of Hong Kong visited our hospital last year. They are interested in our technique. And Dr. Tie Qiao recieved endoscopic medical awards because of his achievement in U.K.. But this surgery is not available in U.K. now. Best regards. Xiaofeng Wang
Is there any updates or progress in the U.K. or US on this device or procedure that you know of?
Any idea when this will become available in the US? I am trying to hold out against having the whole organ removed. This sounds much better.
I'd think it more lucrative to do this procedure given the probability of return procedures?
I find it interesting that western medical associations have yet to look into running trails of their own. Course I suspect just cutting something out means more surgeries each day.more money.
I would like to know the exact address of the Hospitals where this new device of removing gallstone without removing the gallbladder is done. Another one things is that is this device is available in Bangladesh or any country of sub-continent.
I do not know where this device is available. You might contact the authors of the study or make inquiries at hospitals in your area.
I want to knw d location of hospitals who offering did ultrasonic probe procedure
Google for the source of the paper, and the doctors in that hospital in China will be able to offer the procedure. I'm pretty sure it works out cheaper to travel to China to have the procedure, rather than have it done in a western country.
Abdul: I'm sorry I cannot answer your question. You might contact urologists in your area or urological organizations that may be able to provide that information.
Do any hospitals in north east england offer this process?