The gallbladder is a small, muscular bag beneath your liver in the right upper quadrant of your abdominal cavity. Your liver produces bile, a fluid that helps digest fats in the small intestine. Your gallbladder stores bile throughout the day and releases it into the main bile duct. It then drains into the small intestine.
Your gallbladder will sometimes develop gallstones when your body improperly processes cholesterol. Stones will then precipitate inside the gallbladder. Other times, the gallbladder will simply become dysfunctional and produce the same symptoms as gallstones. This condition is called biliary dyskinesia.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Dysfunction or Disease
- Back and/or shoulder pain
- Pain in the middle or right upper side of your belly after eating
A severe onset of these symptoms is sometimes referred to as a “gallbladder attack.” In some cases, if you are seen through the emergency room, you may be taken into surgery the same or next day. This is not always the case. If seen in your primary physician’s office for some or all of these symptoms, your doctor may order an Ultrasound, CT or CAT scan, hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan, or other test to identify or confirm gallstones.
The best option is usually surgical removal of the gallbladder. Medical management is a possibility in special cases. This is often poorly tolerated and the results are usually temporary.
Gallstones can be quite painful and, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications. If the stones move to nearby bile ducts, they can cause blockages, or inflammation of the pancreas. Jaundice (buildup of bile chemicals in the blood) can also occur. Symptoms of jaundice include a yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine, and itching.
Gallbladder Surgery – Cholecystectomy
Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) is most often performed laparoscopically. Laparoscopic surgery offers a minimally invasive approach to gallbladder removal and allows for faster healing time. A traditional open surgery may be required in rare circumstances.