Signs That You Might Need a Gallbladder Removal Surgery

gallbladder removal surgery
BruceBlaus, CC BY-SA 4.0 <Wikimedia Commons

Before we start writing about gallstone removal surgery, Gallstones are solid fragments that develop in the gallbladder as a result of excessive cholesterol and pigments in bile.

The pain caused by stones in the gallbladder can be excruciating. People suffering from blood disorders and liver cirrhosis are more prone to developing these pesky gallbladder stones.

Gallstones can develop with or without symptoms. Stones that exhibit no symptoms are called silent gallstones. These are often discovered during other diagnostic procedures. These can be left untreated unless they start causing pain and other symptoms. 

Usually, gallstones cause the following common signs and symptoms 

  • Frequent heartburn, gas, bloating, and indigestion 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden pain in the upper right or central abdomen and may extend to the back, between the shoulder blades, or into the right shoulder
  • Pale or coloured stools
  • Mild fever 

These symptoms can be experienced following a fatty meal, as fat stimulates the gallbladder to squeeze its stored bile into the small intestine to aid digestion.

If you experience any of these gallstone disease symptoms, get a proper diagnosis done. It will help in determining the severity of the condition.

In mild cases, oral medical along with management tips can help in flushing out the small gallstones. But, the chances of recurrence of gallstones are quite high. Thus, doctors advise that it is better to go for gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). 

Signs and symptoms that require immediate gallbladder removal surgery

Gallstone symptoms and signs that necessitate immediate medical attention include the following:

  • a fever, excessive sweating, and chills
  • persistent, severe abdominal pain lasting more than a few hours
  • abdominal pain that is so severe that you are unable to sit still
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting along with abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

These signs are indicative of serious gallstone complications and thus need surgical treatment at the earliest.

Fever and severe abdominal pain that persists for several hours (with or without nausea and vomiting) may indicate infection or inflammation of the following organs:

  • cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder);
  • cholecystitis (cholangitis); or
  • the pancreas (pancreatitis).

The pancreas, located near the gallbladder, is a digestive gland that produces insulin and digestive enzymes. Because digestive enzymes enter the small intestine via the same opening as the bile duct, they can be impacted by gallstones.

When the main bile duct becomes blocked, a substance called bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream. Jaundice is a possible sign of cholangitis.

If you experience any of these serious symptoms, immediately reach out to a specialist near you.

How is the gallbladder removed?

There are two techniques of gallbladder removal- open cholecystectomy and laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Both the surgeries are conducted under the effect of anaesthesia and thus the patient does not feel major pain or discomfort. 

Open cholecystectomy – Open cholecystectomy is the conventional procedure for gallbladder removal. In this procedure, the surgeon carries out incisions in the abdominal cavity. Through these incisions, the gallbladder, along with the stones, is removed. The incisions are then closed off using sutures.

The surgery is quite complex and invasive in nature. Due to the involvement of incisions and stitches, there is a significant risk of postoperative complications. Moreover, the recovery period stretches over weeks and this can be a little inconvenient.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy –  Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is referred to as a minimally invasive procedure because it is performed through several small incisions rather than one large one. A laparoscope, a long, slender tube equipped with a camera is inserted via a single incision.

The camera enables the surgeon to view the gallbladder on a television monitor. Following that, the gallbladder is removed via another small incision. Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is performed as outpatient procedures, which means the patient can return home the same day. Also, the recovery is fast and the normal physical activities can be resumed within a week.

As explained, laparoscopic treatment is less complex, more precise, and aids in faster healing. So, you should prefer the same to avoid long periods of bed rest and painful recovery. However, only your surgeon or the healthcare provider can decide which is better for you depending on your condition. 

Note– After gallbladder removal surgery, expect your digestive system to settle down after a few days. Bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits are all common short-term problems.

Tips to follow after gallbladder surgery

Here are some tips that you should bear in mind while recovering from the surgery

  • For approximately three to five days, rest as much as possible.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity.
  • Stay hydrated and eat light fiber-rich foods
  • Change the dressing regularly and keep the operated area clean and dry
  • Refrain from skipping meals and prefer small meals throughout the day
  • Call your doctor if you experience abdominal pain, chronic constipation, or diarrhoea.

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