Thumbnail image of: Digestive System: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Gallstones: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas: Illustration

Gallstones Discharge Information

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are hard stone-like objects that build up in your gallbladder. They may be as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball.

The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are part of your digestive system. The liver makes bile that helps your body break down the fat in food. Ducts carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and the small intestines. The gallbladder is a small sac under your liver on your right side that stores bile. The pancreas makes fluid that helps break down food. A duct carries digestive fluids from the pancreas to the upper part of your small intestines.

Gallstones may stay in the gallbladder or smaller stones may move into the bile ducts. It’s possible for stones to move into the main bile duct and block it. If the bile flow from the gallbladder is blocked, the gallbladder can become inflamed and infected. This condition is called cholecystitis. If the bile backs up in the liver, it can cause your skin and white part of your eyes to turn yellow (jaundice). Gallstones can also cause inflammation in the pancreas (pancreatitis) that can be life threatening.

You are more likely to have gallstones if:

  • You are female
  • You are pregnant, are on hormone replacement therapy, or take birth control pills
  • You are overweight
  • You have type 2 diabetes
  • You are Native American
  • You have sickle cell anemia or another disease that breaks down red blood cells
  • Other members of your family have had gallstones

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on the treatment you need and any complications you may have had from your gallstones. If you did not have your gallbladder removed, you may need to make lifestyle changes to reduce the chances of developing more gallstones in the future.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you are to take each time, how often you are to take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation
    • Dissolve gallstones
  • If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
    • Keep your surgery site clean.
    • If you are told to change the dressing on your incision, wash your hands before and after changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Bloating or belly pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Light colored bowel movements
  • Dark urine
  • Back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound, if you had surgery. These include:
    • The area around your surgical wound is more red or painful
    • The wound area is very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from your surgical wound area
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
    • You have chills or muscle aches
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-12-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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