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Gallbladder

What Does It Do?
The gallbladder's job is to store and release bile, a fluid made by the liver. Bile breaks down fats in the foods you eat and helps digestion. Bile usually flows smoothly from the gallbladder into the rest of the digestive system. If gallstones form, the stones can block the release of bile, and can cause the symptoms listed below. Sometimes the gallbladder can function poorly without gallstones being present.

Symptoms
Gallbladder problems can have various symptoms. You may feel severe stomach pain, shoulder pain, back pain, pain under your breastbone, heartburn, upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting. The symptoms may come and go and recur. If you have gallbladder disease the symptoms may worsen if not treated.

Those most likely to have gallbladder conditions include:

  • Women, often in their 40s.
  • Women who are or recently have been pregnant.
  • Men and women who are overweight.
  • Parents, siblings, and children of people with gallbladder problems.

Certain foods may make gallbladder conditions worse. These include fried foods, oils, high-fat dairy products, and spicy or peppery meals.

Diagnosis
You need to have your condition evaluated by your physician, who will schedule some tests to find out if you have a problem with your gallbladder. Your doctor may suggest one or more of these tests:

  • Ultrasound uses sound waves to scan your abdomen for gallstones.
  • Blood tests can suggest stones in your common bile duct.
  • Imaging tests such as CT (computerized tomography), a HIDA (hepatobiliary) scan, or an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) can produce images of your gallbladder and/or test your gallbladder function.

Treatment
Your physician may suggest that you have your gallbladder removed. It is important to know that gallbladder surgery is one of the most successful types of surgery and you can live a healthy life without your gallbladder.

Your options include either a laparoscopic or open cholecystectomy to remove your gallbladder. The laparoscopic approach is preferred because it can be performed in an outpatient setting and you can normally go home the same day. In the laparoscopic approach a laparoscope (telescope camera) is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen and used to view the gallbladder. Surgical instruments are inserted through other incisions and the gallbladder is removed through an incision near the navel.

If the open approach is dictated, the gallbladder is removed through a single incision made in the abdomen. When an open cholecystectomy is performed, the patient will be required to stay in the hospital for several days to insure that the incision is healing properly.

You will schedule an appointment with your surgeon about a week or so after surgery for a recheck.

For either surgery complications are rare but include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to surrounding organs
  • Injury to the common bile duct
  • Blood clots
  • Indigestion
  • Neuroma (painful spot) or numbness near the incision
  • Continued formation of stones in the common bile duct


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