As you likely know, the gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ that rests beneath the liver. Its main purpose is to collect and concentrate a digestive liquid (bile) produced by the liver. Bile helps in digesting fats and is released from the gallbladder after eating certain foods. If you feel it, it’s likely because you’ve developed a certain condition such as gallstones or an infection causing the organ to create pain in the central or upper part of your abdomen, sometimes going to the back, and causing other symptoms like fever, nausea, etc. None of which will go away on their own. If you’re experiencing similar symptoms, please call an Epic Care surgery location today for a consult, second opinion or to schedule surgery.

Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder problems are usually caused by the presence of gallstones, small hard stones consisting primarily of cholesterol and bile salts that form in the gallbladder or in the bile duct. Gallstones may block the flow of bile out of the gallbladder, causing swelling and inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). Gallstones may leave the gallbladder and block the bile ducts causing a blockage or infection (choledocholithiasis or cholangitis). It can also block the pancreatic duct causing pancreatitis (gallstone pancreatitis). Occasionally, gallbladder polyps are found and need to be removed if they are large, growing, or causing pain.

Symptoms of gallbladder problems may include sharp pain in the central or right upper part of the abdomen that may go to the back, low fever, nausea and bloated, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

Your health care provider will ask you about your pain and any stomach problems. Ultrasound is the most common study for gallbladder disease. Blood tests may also be obtained including complete blood count and liver function tests. In a few more complex cases, a nuclear scan or MRI may be ordered to evaluate gallbladder disease.

Gallstones do not go away on their own. If your gallstones are causing pain or problems, cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder) is the recommended treatment for gallbladder disease. Today, gallbladder removal is performed with advanced minimally invasive techniques (laparoscopic or robotic surgery) with small incisions the size of a fingertip rather than the traditional larger open incision. In some patients, this can be done through a single incision in the belly button which, once healed, is virtually scarless.Most patients have mild pain after gallbladder removal and can go home the same day as surgery, i.e. no overnight stay in the hospital is required. Patients can usually return to work 1-2 weeks after surgery, as long as there is no heavy lifting over 10 pounds or strenuous activity for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Walking and light activity is encouraged after surgery. Diet is largely unchanged in the long term. A low fat, non-greasy diet is recommended for the first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. To learn more about gallbladder removal surgery, click here for additional patient information.