Gallbladder dysfunction usually presents as right upper quadrant or mid-epigastric abdominal pain, usually just beneath the breastbone, the right rib cage and sometimes wrapping around to the right upper back. Pain is often associated with meals but can sometimes occur in the middle of the night. Pain is often wavelike, crampy or colicky. It is often very intense and can take your breath away. Some patients describe the pain as lower chest pain and some have mistaken the pain for having a heart attack. It is often accompanied by waves of nausea and vomiting, and the attacks can be short lived or last for days. A gallbladder ultrasound is the first best test to determine whether the gallbladder is the problem. Consultation with a Winter Park Surgical Associates Board certified surgeon is recommended.
Modern gallbladder surgery is comfortable, safe and effective. The treatment for all gallbladder conditions is complete removal of the gallbladder. This is done because once the gallbladder develops stones or “sludge”, the gallbladder is considered defective. Removing the stones is not a treatment option.
The gallbladder is a storage organ, but can be safely removed without affecting digestion in most patients. A small number of patients develop loose stools for a short period of time, but only in about 5% of cases. Once removed, the body adapts to not having a gallbladder. There are no dietary restrictions following surgery, although we always recommend a diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
Nearly all gallbladder surgery is done laparoscopically. With the advent of robotic surgery, some patients can have their gallbladder removed through a single, small incision! Nearly 100% of Winter Park Surgical Associates outpatient gallbladder surgery is done using the laparoscopic or robotic approach and nearly all patients go home the same day. Patients have four small incisions which are always closed with skin glue, providing an excellent, sometimes invisible scar. Patients may shower the very next day and there is virtually no care required for the incisions. Patients are allowed to drive at 3 days and are back to work in in a week or less.