Your gallbladder is a 4-inch, pear-shaped organ. It’s positioned under your liver in the upper right section of your abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, a combination of fluids, fat, and cholesterol. Bile helps break down fat from food in your intestine. The gallbladder delivers bile into the small intestine. This allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Inflammation of the gallbladder is called cholecystitis. Cholecystitis can be either chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term). Chronic inflammation is the result of several acute cholecystitis attacks. Inflammation may eventually damage the gallbladder, making it lose its ability to function correctly.
Gallstones are small, hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder. These deposits can develop and go undetected for years. In fact, many people have gallstones and aren’t aware of them. They eventually cause problems, including inflammation, infection, and pain. Gallstones typically cause short-term cholecystitis.
Gallstones are usually very small, no more than a few millimeters wide. But they can grow to several centimeters. Some people develop only one gallstone, while others develop several. As the gallstones grow in size, they can begin to block the channels that lead out of the gallbladder.
Most gallstones are formed from cholesterol found in the gallbladder’s bile. Another type of gallstone, a pigment stone, is formed from calcium bilirubinate. Calcium bilirubinate is a chemical that’s produced when your body breaks down red blood cells. This type of stone is more rare.
Gallstones can occur in the common bile duct. The common bile duct is the channel that leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Bile is ejected from the gallbladder, passed through small tubes, and deposited in the common bile duct. It’s then ushered into the small intestine.
In most cases, common bile duct stones are actually gallstones that developed in the gallbladder and then passed into the bile duct. This type of stone is called a secondary common bile duct stone, or secondary stone.
Sometimes stones form in the common bile duct itself. These stones are called primary common bile duct stones, or primary stones. This rare type of stone is more likely to cause an infection than a secondary stone.
Gallstones don’t cause every type of gallbladder problem. Gallbladder disease without stones, also called acalculous gallbladder disease, can occur. In this case, you may experience symptoms commonly associated with gallstones without actually having stones.
An infection may develop if the common bile duct is obstructed. Treatment for this condition is successful if it’s found early. If it’s not, the infection may spread and become fatal.
A small percentage of patients with gallstones may also develop pus in the gallbladder. This condition is called empyema. Pus is a combination of white blood cells, bacteria, and dead tissue. The development of pus leads to severe abdominal pain. If the condition isn’t diagnosed and treated, it can become life-threatening as the infection spreads to other parts of the body.
A gallstone may travel into the intestine and block it. This condition is rare but can be fatal. It’s most common among individuals over age 65.
If you wait too long to seek treatment, gallstones can lead to a perforated gallbladder. This is a life-threatening condition. If the tear isn’t detected, a dangerous widespread abdominal infection may develop.
Polyps are growths that develop. These growths are typically benign, or noncancerous. Small gallbladder polyps may not need to be removed. In most cases, they don’t pose any risk to you or your gallbladder. But larger polyps may need to be surgically removed before they develop into cancer or cause problems.
A healthy gallbladder has very muscular walls. Over time, calcium deposits can stiffen gallbladder walls, making them very rigid. This condition is called porcelain gallbladder. Those with this condition have a very high risk of developing gallbladder cancer
Gallbladder cancer is very rare. However, it can spread beyond the gallbladder quickly if it’s not detected and treated.
Symptoms of a gallbladder problem may come and go. However, you’re more likely to develop a gallbladder problem if you’ve previously had one.
While gallbladder problems are rarely deadly, they should still be treated. You can prevent gallbladder problems from worsening if you take action and see a doctor.
Gallbladder removal surgery, also known as a cholecystectomy, is a very common procedure. The gallbladder is a small, pouch-like organ in the upper right part of your tummy. It stores bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fatty foods. You don't need a gallbladder, so surgery to take it out is often recommended if you develop any problems with it.
Surgery to remove the gallbladder is usually carried out if you have painful gallstones. These are small stones that can form in the gallbladder as a result of an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. Gallstones often cause no symptoms and you may not realise you have them, but occasionally they can block the flow of bile and irritate the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis) or pancreas (acute pancreatitis).
Laparoscopic (keyhole) cholecystectomy – several small cuts (incisions) are made in your tummy
(abdomen) and fine surgical instruments are used to access and remove your gallbladder.
Open cholecystectomy – a single, larger incision is made in your tummy to access and remove your gallbladder
Keyhole surgery is used most often because you can leave hospital sooner, recover faster and are left with smaller scars than with an open procedure. Both techniques are performed under general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep during the operation and won't feel any pain while it's carried out.
It doesn't usually take long to recover from keyhole surgery to remove your gallbladder. Most people can leave hospital the same day or the next morning. You'll probably be able to return to most of your normal activities within two weeks. It takes longer to recover from open surgery. You may need to stay in hospital for three to five days and it could be six to eight weeks before you're feeling back to normal.
You can lead a perfectly normal life without a gallbladder. Your liver will still make enough bile to digest your food but, instead of being stored in the gallbladder, it drips continuously into your digestive system. You may have been advised to eat a special diet before surgery, but this doesn't need to be continued afterwards. Instead, you should aim to have a generally healthy, balanced diet. Some people experience problems such as bloating or diarrhoea after surgery, although this usually improves within a few weeks. If you notice certain foods or drinks trigger these symptoms, you may wish to avoid them in the future.
Gallbladder removal surgery is considered to be a safe procedure, but like any type of surgery
there is a risk of complications.
Possible complications include:
(1) wound infection
(2) bile leaking into the tummy
(3) damage to one of the openings (ducts) carrying bile out of the liver
(4) blood clots
Speak to your surgeon about the benefits and risks of surgery before your operation.