What is the gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small storage organ located below the edge of the liver. It actively concentrates and stores bile until it’s needed to assist in the digestion of fats.
Food entering the small bowel stimulates the gallbladder to contract, excreting bile into the intestine via a tube called the common bile duct. There the bile mingles with the food and helps with the digestion of fats.
What causes gallstones and gallbladder disease?
Most gallstones are made up of cholesterol, which is normally found in bile. Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in water and requires a combination of fat and bile salts (breakdown products of blood cells) to stay in solution.
If either of these is out of balance, the cholesterol falls out and forms stones. The size and number of stones can vary in each patient.
Most people who have gallstones are unaware of their presence, and they may go undetected for years. However, once symptoms occur, gallbladder removal helps to avoid serious complications.
Symptoms include pain or an ache in the right upper part of your abdomen that may radiate toward the right side and shoulder after meals, particularly fatty meals.
This ache is called biliary colic, which typically lasts for about two hours and may come and go. If a stone becomes lodged in the neck of the gallbladder, the pain may persist and cause a more serious problem (acute cholecystitis).
If a stone passes from the gallbladder, it typically becomes lodged in the common bile duct. This causes a backup of bile that leads to yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, and dark urine. Untreated, this can lead to more serious conditions, such as pancreatitis.
How is gallbladder disease diagnosed?
A physical exam often reveals tenderness in the right upper area of your abdomen when you have acute cholecystitis, and sometimes in biliary colic. There is usually no tenderness in chronic cholecystitis.
The team at Turnquest Surgical Solutions also uses diagnostic imaging tests such as ultrasound and possibly a HIDA scan (nuclear medicine test) to diagnose gallbladder disease.
Do I need surgery for gallbladder disease?
Surgical removal of the gallbladder is the only acceptable definitive treatment for gallbladder disease. The gallbladder is typically removed laparoscopically via three small incisions, a procedure that lasts around 45 minutes.
Most patients can go home the day of surgery and return to work in one week. The risk of complications is low, and the team goes over any potential risks with you before your surgery.
If you have symptoms of gallbladder disease, take action before it turns into a more serious problem. Call Turnquest Surgical Solutions today, or book an appointment online.