Do We Really Need a Gallbladder?
Many patients, when the idea of gallbladder removal – also referred to as a cholecystectomy – is presented to them, are reticent at the idea of having an organ removed. Cholecystectomy is used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, so understanding the role the gallbladder plays and what life without one could potentially be like can provide many patients with additional peace of mind when considering their healthcare options. To assist in this understanding, G & L Surgical clinic has prepared this article to address a few foundational questions. Read on to learn more.
What does the gallbladder do?
The gallbladder is a small organ located below the right lobe of the liver. It supports the liver in its operations by providing a place where bile can be stored and concentrated, assisting in the digestion of lipids in the small intestine. Measuring around 8 centimetres in length and 4 centimetres in diameter when at its largest, the gallbladder is connected via a short duct called the cystic duct to the common bile duct, which in turn connects to the liver. When functioning correctly, the bile duct aids in the emulsification of fats in foods, helping the body absorb them.
Why would it be removed?
A cholecystectomy may be undertaken for a variety of reasons. Where gallstones are recurring or block the gallbladder, removal may be considered. Equally, a range of conditions causing inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), or other factors such as a heightened risk of cancer of the gallbladder, pancreatitis called by gall stones or biliary colic are all grounds on which a medical professional would consider removal. The supplementary role played by the gall bladder and the ease of removal of it means that cholecystectomy is often considered as a first-line response when a patient presents with any of the above conditions.
What is life without a gallbladder like?
Complications following a cholecystectomy are minor and generally uncommon. In about one in 400 cases, damage to the bile ducts can occur, resulting in a range of symptoms including fever, jaundice, and abdominal pain. A portion of patients develop chronic diarrhoea, and between 5 and 40 per cent develop a condition referred to as postcholecystectomy syndrome, with symptoms including gastrointestinal distress and persistent pain in the upper right abdomen. Your doctor will discuss potential complications and side-effects with you prior to the procedure.