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Morning Rounds: Kidney stones and gallstones

Posted at 12:11 PM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 14:11:42-05

MISSOULA — We answer your medical questions every Wednesday on Montana This Morning during our Morning Rounds segment.

If you have a question that you’d like us to answer, just send us an email at

Dr. Kasey Harbine with St. Patrick Hospital offers up information on kidney stones and gallstone during the Nov. 6 edition of Morning Rounds.

The Florida Medical Clinic has more information about the differences between kidney stones and gallstones on their website, including the following:

Stones forming in the body might seem like a strange idea. Yet gallstones and kidney stones develop in many people every year! While many of their symptoms may be similar, they affect different organs, and have different causes and composition. You may be wondering: when comparing Gallstones vs. Kidney Stones, what’s the difference?

Gallstones vs. Kidney StonesBoth gallstones and kidney stones are, in essence, the buildup of certain materials in their respective organs. Pain occurs when the buildup blocks the organ from functioning normally. In both cases, the stones will need to be removed.


The gallbladder’s job is to store bile, which is produced by the liver and helps with digestion.

Gallstones are hard lumps which form in the bile duct or gallbladder.

Bile consists of cholesterol, water, fats, proteins, bile salts, and bilirubin, which is a yellow-brown pigment. Gallstones form when bile contains too much cholesterol or bilirubin. Obesity and diets high in cholesterol and fat can lead to gallstone formation. Women predominantly develop gallstones.

Gallstones can be asymptomatic. Many people have them and don’t know it! Other times, they can cause gallbladder attacks. Pain and other complications occur if a gallstone blocks a duct, causing an infection. In these cases, the gallstones will need to be removed.

Like kidney stones, gallstones can be removed without removing the gallbladder itself. However, if the gallbladder does need to be removed, don’t worry – your body doesn’t need your gallbladder to continue functioning normally! Gallbladders are often recommended to be removed because you will most likely produce more stones.

Kidney Stones

The kidney filters blood, which is then converted into urine. Kidney stones occur when mineral deposits build up in the kidneys. They usually result from insufficient liquid intake.

Kidneys use liquids in order to process minerals normally. Without enough liquid in your system, your kidneys won’t be able to process the mineral buildup efficiently, and stones will begin to form.

Other causes of kidney stone formation include obesity, heredity, diet, age, and calcium supplements, among others. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women.

As with gallstones, kidney stones can be asymptomatic. Pain begins when kidney stones grow large enough to block the ureter and cannot pass through naturally. Most of the time, with sufficient liquid intake, your system can pass kidney stones naturally. If the stone is too large, or other medical complications arise, you will need to have a surgery known as a lithotripsy to remove the stone.