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What is the reason for gall bladder stones in small babies?

Q: I have a son who is 9 months old. He was a premature baby and weighed 1.6 kg at birth. He has been growing well since then, but of late has been having some problems. This January he was diagnosed to have calcium and iron deficiencies which have been alleviated by proper iron and calcium therapy. Now his calcium and iron level are good. But the problem that I wanted to tell you is about him having a stone in his gall bladder. It came to the doctor's notice in one of his ultra sounds that was done in February. The size of the stone at that time was very small. He is being treated at Safdurjung Hospital, Delhi, as he was born there too. Lots of blood and other tests were conducted at Ganga Ram Hospital to know the cause of stone appearing in such a small baby. Doctors thought that there might be something in the blood which is causing these stones. But all the tests were completely normal. The doctors advised close observation for 3 months and get another ultrasound done after this period. We again got his ultrasound done, but not only has the size of his stone increased but another has been formed during this time. We are very anxious to know why is this happening. Surgery is not advised as he is a baby. Moreover, unless the root cause is known nothing can be done. Could you please tell me what is happening and why?

A:The commonest reason for gall bladder stones in children is chronic haemolytic disease or spherocytosis. Cystic fibrosis is another disease in which children may get gall stones or with chronic liver disease. Sick premature babies have also been found to have gall stones especially after parenteral nutrition in the neonatal period. I would recommend that you should see a Paediatric Gastroenterologist, who can guide you further.

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