The gallbladder is a small pear shaped organ that sits beneath the liver on the right side of your body below your rib cage. The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid produced by the liver. The bile helps in the digestion of fats. When you eat, the gallbladder contracts and squeezes bile through the bile duct into the small intestine. Here it meets with food and breaks down the fat. Several conditions can arise that prevent the free flow of bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine.
About 1 adult in every 10 has gallstones. The stones are made up of bile crystals and occur due to an incorrect ratio of the constituents of bile salts, cholesterol and bilirubin. Gallstones may be as small as grains of sand or ‘sludge’ to the size of a golf ball. Patients at risk of developing gallstones are:
Gender (more common in women)
Rapid weight loss
The typical symptom people complain about is biliary colic. This is a colicky pain experienced on the right side of the upper abdomen with a feeling of nausea and sometimes vomiting. This is due to the gallstones blocking the outlet of the gallbladder or moving into and blocking the ducts. This can lead to other surgical conditions:
Cholecystitis: this is inflammation of the gallbladder
Cholangitis: infection of the bile duct channels
Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas – this can be a surgical emergency
Over time people can also develop gallbladder polyps (diagram). These are commonly benign growths from inside the gallbladder that can lead to symptoms similar to gallstones.
Gall Bladder Surgery
Surgical removal of the gallbladder is known as cholecystectomy and is performed laparoscopically (keyhole) in more 99% of patients. A small incision is made in the umbilicus and 3 further incisions are made on the right side of your abdomen.
The gallbladder is separated from the liver and the cystic duct is divided along with the blood supply to the gallbladder. We routinely perform a cholangiogram which is an X-ray to check that no stones have migrated into the bile duct. If this occurs then small stones are usually removed at the time of the operation.
The operation takes between 30 to 60 minutes and most people go home the following day where they are commenced on a normal diet. People usually return to their normal activities at about 3-5 days but are asked to refrain from heavy lifting for about 4 weeks.
After surgery we will arrange a follow-up appointment at around 3 to 4 weeks after the operation.
Dr Ghosh will discuss the procedure in depth and you will also be supplied with a detailed information booklet on your condition and the surgical options that are available.