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February 17, 1975

Getting Rid of Gallstones Without Surgery

JAMA. 1975;231(7):747-748. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03240190051021

"ISN'T there a new way to just dissolve these gallstones?"

With an estimated 15 million Americans harboring gallstones, it is likely this question is asked thousands of times every day in doctors' offices and hospitals across the land. In a word, the answer to the question is yes. But a single word is not enough; a proper answer requires an explanation, and for most patients the conclusion may appear to contradict the answer.

Gallstones have been with us for centuries. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in this ancient disease, stimulated by newer biochemical knowledge of how gallstones come to be. In the past, the gallbladder was thought to be at fault because that's where the stones accumulate and because the wall of the stone-laden gallbladder is often acutely or chronically inflamed and sometimes deeply scarred. Now we think the blame must be laid elsewhere, at