Gallbladder Disease and Symptoms

Unless they’re experiencing bothersome symptoms associated with gallbladder disease, most people don’t give much thought to their gallbladder. However, when there is an issue, it can be quite painful and require immediate action.

The gallbladder is a 4-inch-long organ found under the liver in the upper right area of the abdomen. It stores bile, a compound produced by the liver to digest fat, and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Unfortunately, when the gallbladder stops working properly or the bile ducts are blocked, it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

Some common gallbladder problems include:

  • Gallstones – solid masses of cholesterol. Gallstones occur when high levels of fat and bile cause crystals to form. Over time, these crystals may combine and expand into stones.
  • Inflamed gallbladder, cholecystitis – Acute or sudden cholecystitis occurs when bile can’t leave the gallbladder. This commonly happens when a gallstone blocks the bile duct. Chronic cholecystitis occurs if there are recurrent acute attacks.
  • Perforated gallbladder – If left untreated, gallstones can lead to a perforated gallbladder – in other words, a hole in the wall of the organ can develop. Perforation also occurs as a complication of acute cholecystitis.
  • Porcelain (calcified) gallbladder – a condition where, over time, the muscular walls of the gallbladder develop a buildup of calcium. This makes them stiff, limiting the gallbladder’s function and increasing the risk of gallbladder cancer. With this condition, the organ becomes bluish and brittle.

Symptoms of gallbladder problems include:

  • Pain in the mid- or upper-right section of the abdomen: Gallbladder pain usually comes and goes. Gallbladder pain is often severe and can cause pain in the chest and back as well.
  • Nausea or vomiting: Any gallbladder problem may cause nausea or vomiting.
  • Fever or shaking chill: These are signs of infection in the body. Along with other gallbladder symptoms, fever and chills may point to a gallbladder problem or infection.
  • Changes in bowel movements: Frequent, unexplained diarrhea can signal a chronic gallbladder disease. Light-colored or chalky stools may point to a problem with the bile ducts.
  • Changes in urine: Dark urine may indicate a bile duct block.
  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin occurs when liver bile does not successfully reach the intestines. This normally happens due to a problem with the liver or due to a blockage in the bile ducts caused by gallstones.

If you’ve been diagnosed with gallbladder disease in the Las Vegas area or are experiencing these symptoms, schedule an appointment with VIPSurg. Dr. Tsuda is the area’s foremost robotic surgeon specializing in gallbladder, weight-loss/bariatric, and other areas of general surgery. Call for an appointment at (702) 487-6000.The Photo Of Liver On Woman's Body Against Gray Background, Hepatitis, Concept with Healthcare And Medicine

Single-Site* Gallbladder Surgery: Helping Patients Heal Faster

If you have a gallbladder attack or severe symptoms, your doctor will likely suggest surgery to remove your gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ that sits just below your liver on the upper right side of your abdomen. While this organ is part of the digestive system, it is one which you can live without. The surgery for gallbladder removal is known as a cholecystectomy.

Cholecystectomy is a common surgery, and it carries only a small risk of complications. In most cases, you can go home the same day of your procedure.

Conservative treatments, such as dietary modifications, unfortunately, usually can’t stop gallstones from recurring or causing pain and other digestive problems. Surgery is often the best or only option to relieve the discomfort of gallbladder disease. A cholecystectomy can relieve the sometimes-severe pain of gallstones.  

Gallbladder surgery can be done using open surgery (through one large incision) or minimally invasively (through a few small incisions or one belly button incision) using da Vinci Surgery or traditional laparoscopy. Most people who require gallbladder removal are candidates for the robotic, single-incision surgery. 

In some cases, one large incision may be used to remove the gallbladder. This is called an open cholecystectomy.

Present-day cholecystectomy is most commonly performed by inserting a tiny video camera and special surgical tools through four small incisions to see inside your abdomen and remove the gallbladder. Doctors call this a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. 

Surgeons using da Vinci technology can remove your gallbladder through one small incision in your belly button using Single-Site* technology, or through a few small incisions. The da Vinci System is a robotic-assisted surgical device of which your surgeon is always in 100% control. 

With the da Vinci System surgeons get:

  • A 3D HD view inside your body
  • Special wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand
  • Enhanced vision, precision, and control

Benefits of laparoscopic cholecystectomy can include:

  • minimal scarring
  • less pain
  • less bleeding
  • faster recovery
  • shorter hospital stays

A cholecystectomy is most commonly performed to treat gallstones and the complications they cause. Your doctor may recommend a cholecystectomy if you have:

  • Gallstones in the gallbladder (cholelithiasis)
  • Gallstones in the bile duct (choledocholithiasis)
  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis) due to gallstones

If pain from gallstones or cholecystitis are disrupting your life, schedule a consultation at VIPSurg. Dr. Tsuda and his team can determine the best method for treating your condition. Robotic surgery can get you home and back to doing what you love — quickly and with minimal pain! Call for an appointment at (702) 487-6000. 

robotic surgery

Gallbladder Attacks: Know the Signs and Symptoms

Gallbladder attacks can be quite frightening because it can feel like you’re having a heart attack. When the gallbladder is healthy, this small organ aids the digestive process by sick old man suffering from heartburn, acid refluxstoring bile and excreting it into the small intestine for food digestion. When the gallbladder is unhealthy, gallstones can form and block bile ducts, bile can back up in the gallbladder and cause painful inflammation, or the gallbladder can become infected with a condition known as Cholecystitis.

Gallbladder attacks often begin suddenly and can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours, sometimes even requiring hospitalization. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gallbladder problems is important so that you know when to seek treatment.

The following are common symptoms:

  • Abdominal Pain – One of the most obvious symptoms of gallstones is pain that begins in the upper right portion of the stomach, under the ribs. This pain will radiate outwards, moving gradually to the center of the belly or upper back.
  • Indigestion – Complaints of gas, nausea, and abdominal discomfort after meals are common symptoms. One may experience symptoms of colic, which cause a steady gripping pain (i.e., like heartburn) in the upper right abdomen near the rib cage. Also, like heartburn, colic can radiate to the upper back and behind the breast bone causing pain and pressure.
  • Vomiting – Gallstone pain can cause vomiting, particularly following large or fatty meals.
  • Lack of Appetite – If nausea occurs mainly following meals, the patient may avoid eating altogether due to fear of pain.
  • Jaundice – If a gallstone becomes lodged in or blocks a bile duct, bile remains in your body and bloodstream, turning your skin and the whites of the eyes a yellowish hue known as Jaundice.
  • Urine Changes – Dark or discolored urine can indicate gallbladder issues as well as dehydration.
  • Diarrhea – Explosive and frequent bowl movements can occur with gallstone attacks, accompanied by pain that tends to come and go.
  • Stool Changes – When gallstones grow and block bile ducts, the color of the stool can become pale or clay-like.
  • Fever – If a patient with gallstones or prone to gallbladder attacks experiences fever and chills, this typically indicates an infection of the bile ducts. Fever will occur with acute cholecystitis, usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Patients with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. Acute cholecystitis is a life-threatening condition if left unattended.
  • Chest Pain – Gallbladder attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks. If a blockage or infection afflicts the gallbladder or bile duct, acid is trapped in the stomach and gets pushed up into the chest, resulting in heart attack-like pain.

If you have gallbladder pain or have been told you need to have yours removed, contact VIP Surg. The doctors will determine what treatment is right for you. Call for a consultation.

Gallbladder Disease and Gallstones

Some people think of their gallbladder as being “expendable”. Not that anybody wants any of their organs to be removed, but since many people live a seemingly normal life after getting their gallbladder removed, many people don’t think their gallbladder plays an important role in their overall health. After all, how important can your gallbladder be if you can do just fine after it’s surgically removed? The gallbladder actually plays a very important role in your body. It is an essential part of the digestive system.

Your gallbladder is most likely to give you trouble if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. That is usually a gallstone. Gallstones form when substances in bile harden. Rarely, you can also get cancer in your gallbladder. Many gallbladder problems get better with removal of the gallbladder. Fortunately, you can live without a gallbladder. Bile has other ways of reaching your small intestine.

In the United States, about a million new cases of gallstone disease are diagnosed each year, and some 800,000 operations are performed to treat gallstones, making it the most common gastrointestinal disorder requiring hospitalization.

Gallstone disease is the most common disorder affecting the body’s biliary system, the network of organs and ducts that create, transport, store, and release bile. Bile contains cholesterol, water, proteins, bilirubin (a breakdown product from blood cells), bile salts (the chemicals necessary to digest fat), and small amounts of copper or other materials. If the chemical balance of bile contains too much of any of these components, particularly of cholesterol, crystals form and can harden into stones.

In terms of size, gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. A person can form one large stone in his or her gallbladder, or hundreds! About 10 percent of the population has gallstones, but the vast majority experiences no symptoms and need no treatment. However, in 1 percent to 2 percent of these people, gallstones can cause problems by lodging in bile ducts, stopping the flow of bile or digestive enzymes, and leading to severe abdominal pain, vomiting, inflammation, and even life-threatening infection.

Gallstone attack has some classic symptoms: The most agonizing pain is experienced in the upper right part of the abdomen under the ribs. Usually it appears suddenly, sometimes an hour or two after eating a fatty meal. The pain may get worse quickly, and then last for several hours. Many times, the pain may radiate to the back between the shoulder blades or under the right shoulder. Inhaling deeply, or moving, often makes the pain worse. The primary therapy for gallstones that are causing pain, inflammation, or infection is removal of the gallbladder.

A number of factors put people at higher risk of gallstones:

  • Gender: Women between the ages of 20 and 60 are 3 times more likely to develop gallstones than are men in the same age group. By age 60, 20 percent of American women have gallstones.
  • Age: The incidence of gallstone disease increases with age.Tsuda 11-18
  • Genetics: Family history and ethnicity are critical risk factors in development of gallstones, though no gene responsible for gallstone formation has yet been discovered. African-Americans seem to have lower rates of gallstone disease than American Indians, whites, or Hispanics.
  • Obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor, particularly for women. Obesity also slows down the emptying of the gallbladder.
  • Location of body fat: Belly fat, that spare tire around the middle, dramatically increases the chance of developing stones.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes often have high levels of triglycerides in their blood, and these fatty acids tend to increase the risk of gallstones.

Even if you’re not at risk for gallstones, it is wise to maintain a healthy body weight, by among other things, sticking to a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber.

If you are in the Las Vegas area and suffering with gallstones or gallbladder disease, schedule a consultation at VIP Surg.