The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ located under the liver. The gallbladder is important for digestion because it stores bile (bile is a liquid released by the liver which contains cholesterol, bile salts (which help digest fats) , and waste products (including bilirubin, which is a yellowish pigment that is left after older red blood cells are replaced by new red blood cells and which the liver helps beak down so that it can be removed in the stool) that travels from the liver through the bile ducts and into the gallbladder, where it is stored until it is released through the common bile duct (a tube that connects the gallbladder and the liver to the small intestine) into the small intestine where it helps to digest fat in the food that is consumed.
The most common problem associated with the gallbladder occurs when there is a blockage of the flow of bile through the bile duct (known as bile duct obstruction). The most common cause of bile duct obstruction is gallstones (gallstones are hard, pebble-like deposits made up of cholesterol (the most common type, but unrelated to the amount of cholesterol in the body) ) or bilirubin (called pigment stones) that form inside the gallbladder and can range from the size of a grain of sand to as big as a golf ball). A gallstone attack usually happens after you eat. The symptoms of a gallbladder attack may include nausea, vomiting, and/or pain in the abdomen (if a large stone blocks the cystic duct or common bile duct it may cause a cramping pain in the middle to right upper abdomen, known as biliary colic, that goes away when the stone passes into the small intestine), back, or just under the right arm, fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the white parts of the eyes due to increased levels of bilirubin in the blood), fullness of the abdomen, dark urine, and clay-colored stools.
If the blockage is caused by gallstones, the stones may be removed by an endoscope (the procedure is known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographyn, or ERCP). If surgery is necessary, the gallbladder may be removed (you can live without your gallbladder). If the blockage is due to an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. If the blockage is due to cancer, the duct may have to be widened by dilation. If the blockage is not corrected, a life-threatening infection can occur as well as a dangerous buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Chronic liver disease can occur if the blockage lasts a long time. If left untreated, serious infections such as sepsis and serious liver disease such as biliary cirrhosis may occur.
Gallbladder removal surgery is known as cholecystectomy. In the past, cholecystectomy was done as an “open” procedure but most are now done by using small surgical cuts through which surgical cameras and instruments are inserted to remove the gallbladder (known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which allows for a faster recovery).
There is presently no known way to prevent gallstones; however, eating a low-fat diet and losing weight may help control symptoms.
Many people develop gallstones without having any symptoms. Fortunately, the chances of symptoms or complications from gallstones is low and nearly all gallbladder patients who had their gallbladders removed have no return of their symptoms.
A potentially serious complication/risk from both an open cholecystectomy and laparoscopic cholecystectomy is injury to the common bile duct, which can then leak bile and cause pain and infection. Some injuries to the common bile duct may be treated non-surgically although others may need further corrective surgery.
Sometimes the poor outcome from a cholecystectomy is due to negligence such as poor surgical technique or poor surgical training. If you suspect that complications or further injuries due to gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) may have been due to medical negligence, visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your area who may be able to investigate whether you have a medical malpractice claim or call us toll free 800-295-3959. Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.