Gallbladder and Gallbladder Disease

The gallbladder is an organ located in the upper right part of the abdomen. It is shaped like a pear and connects to the common bile duct, which carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. While eating, a person’s gallbladder contracts and empties extra bile into the intestine to assist with the digestive process.

An unhealthy gallbladder is inflamed and unable to function properly. Some unhealthy gallbladders develop stones. Though anyone can experience gallbladder disease, women who are overweight and over the age of 35 have a greater risk. Research has also shown gallbladder issues are hereditary.

Symptoms of gallbladder disease include:
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the right upper side of the abdomen or below the breast bone
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Jaundice

Symptoms are typically worse after eating fatty or greasy food. Pain can radiate throughout the abdomen and can be severe.

Diagnosing and Treating Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder disease is usually diagnosed with ultrasound. This process identifies gallstones and determines if there is inflammation, excess fluid, or thickening of the wall. A HIDA scan may be used with or without CCK injections in atypical cases.

Gallbladder disease may require surgical removal of the organ. The process is typically performed laparoscopically. Occasionally, the gallbladder can be removed with one incision hidden in the belly button using the daVinci robot. In the rare event a patient experiences a severe infection preventing use of laparoscopic surgery, a standard open incision operation is used.

Recovery

Laparoscopic or robotic surgery makes for a faster and less pain recovery period. Most of the time this type of surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, but occasional overnight stays are required. Pain is typically mild and treated with oral medication. Small gauze pads are placed over the incision and are removed before showering, which is typically permitted the day after surgery. Patients are free to resume normal activities within three to five days and can return to strenuous activities within four weeks of surgery. It is recommended that patients avoid greasy or fatty foods for at least two weeks following surgery, but most healthcare providers encourage patients to steer clear of these foods indefinitely. A follow-up visit is required about one to two weeks after surgery.

Complications

Gallbladder surgery is considered safe, but as with all surgery, there are risks involved. These include:
  • Bleeding or infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Injury to surrounding organs
  • Bile duct injury or blockage
  • Diarrhea or other post cholecystectomy symptoms
  • Need for additional surgery
  • Complications from anesthesia