Thousands of people suffering from tormenting gallstones can benefit from a two-in-one procedure to quickly cure the condition.
Gallstones are solid particles that sometimes form in the gallbladder, a bag-like organ in the liver.
These & # 39; stones & # 39; can get stuck in the canal that connects the gallbladder to the rest of the intestine, causing unbearable pain, nausea, and jaundice.
Until now, some patients had to go through two separate procedures, weeks apart, first to remove the stuck pea-shaped balls and later to remove the gallbladder.
But now surgeons at London North West University Healthcare use NHS Trust lasers to blow away the stones before they remove the organ in a single procedure.
Surgeons at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust use lasers to eject the stones before they remove the organ in a single procedure
Keyhole surgery of one hour has a lower risk of complications than traditional methods, so patients save according to a potentially long recovery time.
Alberto Martinez-Isla, consultant surgeon at NHS Trust, London North West University Healthcare, explains: "When gallstones get stuck, they can cause real discomfort to patients and lead to life-threatening problems with other organs in the digestive system.
"The standard treatment includes at least two hospital visits and several days of recovery.
"This new, single-stage procedure is better for patients and requires only one day in the hospital."
The gallbladder is about the size of a small wallet and sits under the liver in the upper abdomen.
It stores bile, a substance that is made in the liver and that aids digestion.
Gallstones are thought to occur when there is an imbalance in the chemical composition of bile, but it is unclear what exactly causes this.
& # 39; Stones & # 39; can get stuck in the canal that connects the gallbladder to the rest of the intestine, causing unbearable pain, nausea and jaundice
She has one in ten adults in the UK, with women, people over 40, and obese and overweight people most likely to be affected.
Most will not experience any symptoms. However, if a stone gets stuck in the opening of the gallbladder, it can cause sudden, intense pain in the abdomen.
Some people with gallstones also develop serious complications. The gallbladder can become inflamed, leading to persistent pain, jaundice and high temperature. Acute pancreatitis can also occur.
Medication is not often prescribed because it does not work for most people. The most effective treatment is the removal of the gallbladder. The organ is not essential and people can live a normal life without one.
However, studies suggest that up to 18 percent of people undergoing surgical removal of this pouch have at least one stone still in their bile duct, the tube that attaches the gallbladder to the intestines. This can cause the pancreas to become inflamed and fatal – therefore the stones must first be removed.
This is usually done during an endoscopic procedure, where a flexible tube is inserted through the mouth and into the stomach.
A cut is made at the opening of the bile ducts and the captured stones are erased. The gallbladder is removed in a separate operation a few weeks later. But in the gap between procedures, some patients suffer a gallstone attack, which must then be cleared again, further delaying recovery.
WHAT ARE GALLSTONES?
Gallstones are pieces of material sold that form in the gallbladder.
In the UK, up to one in 10 adults has the condition. It affects around 15 percent of people in the US.
Gallstones can resemble sand grains or large pebbles.
They are formed from bile chemicals and can consist of only cholesterol, a mixture of calcium and a pigment from red blood cells, or a combination of both.
Gallstones are linked to high cholesterol, as well as liver damage and fasting.
Most people don't know they have gallstones.
The most common symptom is abdominal pain, which can last up to eight hours and can be severe.
This can be considered as a heart attack.
Pain is caused by the gallbladder trying to expel the stones.
If gallstones are detected on something else through a scan and do not cause any symptoms, they are often left without treatment.
Gallbladder inflammation may require antibiotics to be administered in the hospital.
Severe symptoms can cause people to have the organ removed.
The gallbladder, which is involved in digestion, is not essential for life.
Source: British Liver Trust
The endoscopic procedure can also damage the bile duct and cause bile to leak into the abdomen later.
With the help of lasers, surgeons can now blow large, hard-to-reach gallstones into small pieces – and remove the gallbladder.
"The new lasers have made it much easier to remove stones in the bile duct – even very large ones that would otherwise be extremely difficult to remove," says Mr. Martinez-Isla. "Avoiding the endoscopic procedure also reduces the risk of complications. This technology helps more and more patients to have their gallstones treated and to remove the gallbladder in one procedure. & # 39;
The procedure – known as laser-guided bile duct examination by laparendoscopy or LABEL – is performed under general anesthesia. Five small incisions are made on the patient's abdomen and a scoop – a tube with a 3 mm wide camera – is inserted through one into the cystic canal that connects the gallbladder and bile duct.
A laser fiber is then passed through a channel of the scope and the instrument is moved into the bile duct to locate the captured stones. Short bursts of energy are emitted to blow the stones into small pieces that are collected in a basket.
Finally, the gallbladder is cut from the bile duct and removed.
A clamp is placed to close the bile duct end at the end of the operation.
Patients are generally good enough to go home the next day.
Margaret O & Sullivan, 83, from Harrow, was left in agony and lost three stones in weight when gallstones got stuck in her bile ducts in March last year.
"It got so bad that I didn't care if I was alive," says the mother of four.
"I only had to eat a bite of food and I would get the most unbearable pain in my stomach that would last for days.
"At a certain point it got so bad that I couldn't even drink a cup of soup and the attacks could last all day, several days in a row. I stopped eating to prevent the pain. & # 39;
She underwent the procedure in April, was home three days later and is now pain-free.
Fortunately, her appetite has fully returned. "I stop all those things I couldn't eat before – like pate," she said. "It's heaven."
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