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How do you know when you need gallbladder surgery?

Surgery to remove the gallbladder is a very common procedure at Logansport Memorial Hospital and across the country. In fact, cholecystectomy - the formal name for gallbladder removal surgery - currently accounts for 75% of all surgical procedures in the United States. Surgery is the most common treatment for gallstones that are causing pain and other problems. How do you know if you're having issues with your gallstones? And when do those issues warrant surgery? Let's learn more about gallstones and surgical treatment options. 

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What are gallstones?

The gallbladder stores bile to aid with digestion. Sometime bile and cholesterol hardens into pieces of stone-like material called gallstones. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. You can have one or many stones of varying sizes at any time. These stones block the flow of bile causing inflammation and other problems including:  

  • Gallstone pancreatitis - A gallstone blocks the opening to the pancreatic duct, and digestive enzymes become trapped in the pancreas causing extremely painful inflammation. 
  • Biliary colic - Pain caused by a gallstone stuck in the bile duct, a tube that carries bile to the small intestine 
  • Cholecystitis- A stone caught in the bile duct causing inflammation of the gallbladder
  • Cholangitis - An infection of the bile ducts 
  • Gallstone ileus - The gallbladder attaches to the small intestine, creating an abnormal opening through which the stone can travel and cause an obstruction of the small bowel

When is surgery necessary? 

About 80% of people who have gallstones have no symptoms and thus require no treatment. For those people who do have symptoms, attacks often begin suddenly - usually after a fatty meal and often during the night. Common symptoms include: 

  • Steady and sharp pain in the upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours
  • Pain in the back between the shoulder blades 
  • Pain under the right shoulder 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

Minimally invasive gallbladder surgery 

At Logansport Memorial , our surgeon most often recommend minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive - or laparoscopic- surgery for gallbladder removal involves several tiny incisions in the abdomen where the surgeon inserts surgical instruments and a miniature video camera. The camera sends a magnified image from inside the body to a video monitor, giving the surgeon a close-up view of the organs and tissues. While watching the monitor, the surgeon inserts instruments to carefully separate the gallbladder from the liver, ducts, and other structures. The cystic duct is then cut and the gallbladder is removed. When the gallbladder is removed, the surgeon also examines the bile ducts and removes any stone that are present there. The ducts are not removed, so the liver can continue to secrete bile into the intestine to assist with digestion. 

Because the abdominal muscles are not cut during laparoscopic surgery, patients have less pain and fewer complications than they do after major abdominal surgery. Recovery usually requires only a few days of restricted activity at home. This procedure has a success rate around 95%. 

Learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive gallbladder surgery. 

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Did you know that women are at increased risk of having gallstones? 

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, gallstones occur in up to 20% of American women by the age of 60. Women between the ages of 20 and 60 years are three times more likely to develop gallstones than men. 

Female risk factors for the development of gallstones

  • Multiple pregnancies 
  • Family history of gallstones 
  • Hispanic or American Indian heritage 
  • Obesity 
  • Rapid weight loss 

Women Rochester, Logansport and throughout North Central Indiana turn to the surgeons at Logansport Memorial Hospital when they need gallbladder surgery. Learn more about our centralized surgical services.


TOPICS: General surgery, Health