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Gall Bladder Surgery > What are the complications of Gallstones?

Repeated attacks of gallbladder pain are frequently occurring symptoms and can occur without any complications over many years. However, complications can occur and the following complications should be carefully considered if you were to choose not to go ahead with surgery for gall bladder removal.

The major complications of gallstones are:

Acute cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder).

This is the situation of where the gall stone becomes lodged in the outlet of the gallbladder and does not release. The gallbladder is forced into digesting itself causing inflammation and unremitting pain. Naturally occurring bacteria can result in an infection in this case and can lead to gangrene of the gallbladder. Emergency surgery is the only option for this complication.

Jaundice (yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes).

This occurs when a gallstone gets stuck in the main bile duct and blocks bile going from the liver to the bowel. There is a backup of bile into the liver which then cannot function properly. Bile is absorbed into the bloodstream and this stains the skin and other organs a yellow colour. Secondary infection of the bile ducts can occur (cholangitis) which can be life threatening. The stone(s) must be removed from the bile duct urgently by surgery.


A gallstone in the main bile duct can interfere with the pancreas and cause pancreatitis. This is potentially a life threatening illness and requires hospital treatment by an experienced surgical team.


Although rare, cancer of the gallbladder can occur and may be fatal. Cancers usually occur when gallstones have been present for 20 years or more.

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