The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped, sac-like organ on the under-side of the liver. It stores bile. Bile is synthesized in the liver and stored and concentrated in the gallbladder.
Bile helps in digestion of fat in the food we eat. It is released from the gallbladder to the upper small intestine in response to food, especially the fats.
Gallbladder disease is not uncommon amongst the adults, especially the women.
These are solid stones formed in the gallbladder from cholesterol, bile salts and calcium. The most common gallbladder disease is gallstones. More than 20 million Americans have gall stones. Cholesterol gallstones are the commonest type of gallstones found. It amounts to 80% of gallstones in individuals in Europe and the Americas. Pigment gallstones are the second most common type of gallstones in the Europe and the Americas. It amounts to 15% of gallstones in individuals from these countries. However, pigment gallstones are more common than cholesterol gallstones in individuals from Southeast Asia.
Gallstones sometimes do not cause any symptoms. They are detected on routine scans. When it causes symptoms, the symptoms vary from mild discomfort to excruciating abdominal pain to jaundice.
A wait and see’ approach is sometimes used to treat gallstones when there are no symptoms.
Severe abdominal pain associated with gallbladder disease is usually treated in the hospital. Pain killers are prescribed depending on the type of disease and the results of tests done. The pain killers may be given in the form of pills or intravenous injections.
Presence of an infection will put the sufferer on antibiotics to clear the infection in addition to the pain killers.
Gallstones are to be removed if causing symptoms. The method of removal will again depend on the type, size and number of stones present.
Lithotripsy is a stone-breaking technique used to treat solitary gallstones less than 2mm in size. It is a non invasive procedure but could be done on only a few people because larger stones cannot be destroyed using this technique.
Surgery to remove the gallbladder is advised when there is acute inflammation of the gallbladder. It could be due to an infection or due to gallstones.
Gallbladder removal surgery is now most commonly done through a laparoscope. In this method of surgery, a laparoscope is passed through small incisions made on the abdomen and the gallbladder along with its stones is removed trough the instrument. It is a less invasive method compared to the open surgery.
*Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)
In the large majority of patients inflammation of the gallbladder is caused by gallstones in the gallbladder. It can manifest in an acute form or it may be chronic. Acute inflammation causes severe abdominal pain mainly on the right side of the upper abdomen. It may be associated with nausea, vomiting and fever. Reducing the intake of fat in your diet will reduce the attacks of inflammation. Treatment of inflammation of the gallbladder is medical initially. But if it recurs, surgery to remove the gallbladder is usually advised.
Infection of the gallbladder also causes inflammation and it is usually associated with gallstones. The symptoms of an infection of the gallbladder may not be too different from those of inflammation. Treatment of a gallbladder infection is in the same line with any other infection of an internal organ. It includes pain killers and antibiotics. Surgery is advised if it is recurrent or contains gallstones.
*Polyps in gallbladder
This is not too uncommon but it usually does not cause any symptoms. Very rarely the polyps may be cancerous. Cancerous polyps are common among those larger than 1cm in size. For this reason polyps larger than 1cm are advised removal.