Gallbladder Disease FAQ

Gallbladder Disease FAQ

What are the symptoms of gallbladder disease?

Gallbladder disease symptoms can be similar to other medical conditions, so it's important to have the proper screening and test(s) for diagnosis and treatment. Here are some symptoms that are commonly associated with gallbladder disease:

  • Pain: especially after eating particularly fatty foods. This pain usually occurs in the mid to upper-right section of your abdomen and can radiate to the back between the shoulder blades. It can be mild and intermittent, or it can be quite severe and frequent.
  • GI Issues: Nausea, gas pains, bloating (belching) and even vomiting. These symptoms usually occur after eating fatty foods and may be accompanied by pain. Another common GI issue linked to gallbladder disease is heartburn symptoms that don't respond to antacids.
  • Unusual stools or urine: Lighter-colored stools and dark urine are possible signs that a gallstone is blocking the common bile duct.
  • Jaundice: Yellow-tinted skin may be a sign that a gallstone is blocking the common bile duct
  • Pancreatitis: A personal history of pancreatitis can be linked to gallbladder disease

What is the procedure like for gallbladder removal?

Gallbladder removal is the only way to remove gallstones and completely resolve symptoms associated with gallbladder dysfunction. This type of surgery is called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. It's one of the most common outpatient surgeries general surgeons perform.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is performed under general anesthesia so you will not feel anything. The surgery involves three to four small incisions less than one-half inch in length. Local anesthetic (numbing medication) will be injected in the area of each incision. A camera is inserted into the abdomen through one of these incisions. The other incisions are used for the insertion of instruments the surgeon uses to remove the gallbladder instead of making a large incision as was commonly done in the past. The stitches will be under the skin and the incisions will be covered with a small dressing or bandaid, if anything.

What are the risks associated with NOT removing my diseased gallbladder?

  • Jaundice or pancreatitis with passage of a stone into the common bile duct: Gallstones can move from the gallbladder into the common bile duct, which is a small tube that moves bile from the gallbladder into the small intestine. A gallstone will usually pass through with no problems. On more rare occasions, a gallstone can block the common bile duct which can result in extreme pain and a life threatening infection of the liver and surrounding tissues.
  •  Acute cholecystitis: can occur when gallstones block the normal flow of bile out of the gallbladder causing the gallbladder itself to become inflamed. This is usually accompanied by excruciating pain and often leads to hospitalization and emergent surgery to remove the gallbladder.

What should I do if I suspect gallbladder disease?

You should first talk to your primary care doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. Gallbladder disease symptoms can be similar to other medical conditions, so it's important to have the proper screening and test(s) for diagnosis and treatment. After asking questions about your symptoms, doing a physical exam, and eliminating some causes from the list of possibilities, your doctor probably will order some imaging tests to look at your gallbladder:

Abdominal Ultrasound: Gallstones are found by performing an abdominal ultrasound

CCK-HIDA scan:  gallbladder dysfunction is identified on a test called a CCK – HIDA which measures how well the gallbladder is pushing out bile in response to eating fatty foods.

If the results of these tests lead your physician to further suspect gallbladder disease, you will be referred to a surgeon to discuss gallbladder removal.

What should I expect after gallbladder removal surgery?

This varies from patient to patient, but many patients return to desk type work within a few days.  More strenuous jobs, such as those requiring heavy lifting, may not be feasible for a week or two.  It is rare for patients to need extended time off of work.

The most uncomfortable thing to expect for the first few days after surgery is pain radiating to your right shoulder area. You will likely be given a prescription for pain medication and discuss a pain control regimen including standing and taking frequent walks to alleviate this discomfort.

You will want to watch what you eat closely for around the first month after gallbladder removal. Eat small portions and slowly reintroduce fatty foods and high fiber foods into your diet as your body adjusts. If you are too quick to reintroduce fatty foods you can experience stomach pain and diarrhea, while rapidly introducing high fiber "gassy" foods can cause bloating, cramping and diarrhea. Most people return to a full diet with no issues in around one month.

To Make an Appointment

To find out more about Gallbladder Disease Treatment offered at CSA Surgical Center in Columbia, Missouri please call Columbia Surgical Associates at 573-443-8773 and schedule an appointment.