What is the Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small, sack-like structure located beneath the liver in the right upper portion of the abdomen, It holds bile which is made by the liver and when you eat anything, especially fatty or greasy foods, the gallbladder contracts like a squeeze-bottle, pushing bile into the intestine. Bile mixes with the food and helps your intestine breakdown and digest fatty foods.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Problems
Like most bodily functions, when the gallbladder is working normally you never know it. It is only when something is wrong that the gallbladder announces its presence. Symptoms of gallbladder problems can vary widely, depending on the cause of the problem. Some patients have acute gallbladder attacks caused by gallstones with symptoms that include:
- cramping pain in the upper abdomen
Attacks may last for only a few minutes or linger for hours or even days. Some patients never experience these acute symptoms and instead have only mild pain after eating, occasional diarrhea, excess flatus or indigestion. In either case the symptoms are usually intermittent but increase in frequency over time.
Gallstones, Polyps, & Cholecystitis
Occasionally the concentration of the various chemicals dissolved in the bile can get out of balance, resulting in the solid crystals to form inside the gallbladder. These crystals then gradually grow into gallstones. Some people have many stones, while other may have only a few or just one. But the size and number of stones has very little to do with how much trouble they may cause. Painful gallbladder attacks occur when the gallbladder tries to empty and a stone gets pushed into the narrow outlet, called the cystic duct. Gallbladder pain can be excruciating, prompting some patients to go to the Emergency Room thinking they are having a heart attack.
Not everyone with gallbladder problems has gallstones. Some people develop polyps, or growths, attached to the wall of the gallbladder. These polyps are typically composed of the same stone-like material, and they often trigger symptoms that are very similar to those caused by gallstones. Occasionally inflammation of the gallbladder occurs even when there are no stones or polyps, a condition known as acalculous cholecystitis. The symptoms may be virtually the same as those experienced by patients with gallstones or polyps.
Minimally Invasive Treatment Options
"I cannot imagine going through surgery and having a better experience." ~Tim K.
Surgical removal of the gallbladder, a procedure called cholecystectomy, is the treatment of choice for most patients with symptoms of gallbladder disease, and laparoscopic techniques are now the standard treatment for managing all types of gallbladder problems. Most patients are able to return home within just a few hours, but in emergency cases, it may be necessary to stay overnight for observation. In either situation, recovery is usually fairly rapid with most patients able to resume all normal activities, including even light exercise and returning to work within just a few days. Your body typically adapt rather quickly to the absence of the gallbladder, and most people can eat a normal, unrestricted diet within just a week or so.
The Single Incision Laparoscopic Option
I new type of minimally invasive surgical technique has recently been introduced that further reduces the number of incisions required to perform laparoscopic surgery. Referred to as Single Incision Laparoscopic Surgery, it is often possible to remove the gallbladder using only one small incision, which can often be hidden within the umbilicus. The benefit of this technique is exclusively cosmetic, with less visible scarring. Not everyone is a candidate for single incision laparoscopic surgery based on body size and the degree of inflammation in the gallbladder. Here what one of our patients had to say about her experience with Single Incision Laparoscopic Removal of her Gallbladder.
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