Gallbladder & Gallbladder Problems
The gallbladder is a small organ – approximately four inches long – located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, under the liver. It acts as a storage vessel for bile, a combination of fluids, fats and cholesterol.
Bile isa digestive fluid made by the liver and released into the small intestine to help break down fats.
Gallbladder disease & problems
There are a number of diseases associated with the gallbladder, some that necessitate removal of the organ. Gallbladder conditions include:
- Gallstones – also known as cholelithiasis –are hardened bits of digestive fluid that haveformed balls ranging in size from a grain of salt to the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Individuals can develop a single gallstone or multiple stones and may or may not experience symptoms. Asymptomatic gallstones don’t usually require treatment but when gallstones cause nausea or vomiting and/or pain in the abdomen, right shoulder, or between the shoulder blades in the back, the gallbladder is surgically removed. Those who are not candidates for surgery may be treated with medications.
- Cholecystitis – or inflammation of the gallbladder occurs when bile builds up in the gallbladder usually due to blockage of the tube leading from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Untreated, cholecystitis can cause gallbladder rupture. Symptoms include pain, abdominal tenderness, nausea, vomiting and fever. Treatment options range from antibiotics and pain medications to removal of the gallbladder.
- Polyps – are growths that develop in the lining of the gallbladder. Almost all small gallbladder polyps are benign and rarely require treatment. Polyps that are one half inch in size or large are more concerning.The larger size of the polyps dictate the gallbladder be surgically removed due to the risk of becoming cancerous.
- Cancer – gallbladder cancer is rare but occurs most often in those over 60 years of age. Gallbladder cancer calls for surgical removal of the gallbladder along with appropriate cancer therapy.
Gallbladder removal surgery – cholecystectomy – is often done through a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. The surgery is performed through a small incision in the abdomen. Three small additional incisions are made to accommodate a tiny video camera and surgical instruments. The surgeon performs the surgery with the aid of a video monitor in the operating room. Afterwards, patients typically go home the same day and achieve full recovery in one week.
When laparoscopic cholecystectomy isn’t an option, an open, or traditional, procedure is done through a larger (6 inch) incision on the right side of the abdomen. Recovery for an open cholecystectomy procedure is longer than a laparoscopic surgery. It requires a two to three day hospitalization with six weeks for full recovery.