What is a gallbladder?
Gallbladder is a pear shaped organ present close to the liver. Its function is to store and concentrate bile juice which is produced in the liver. It does not produce bile as many people think.
What is bile?
What are gallstones?
What causes gallstones?
The exact cause for their formation is not known, however, risk factors include :
|Who is at risk for gallstones?|
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of gallstones are severe abdominal pain often called a gallstone 'attack' (colic) because they occur suddenly. Gallstone attacks often follow fatty meals, and they may occur during the night. A typical attack can cause the following:
Other symptoms of gallstones include :
People who also have the following symptoms should see a doctor right away:
Many people with gallstones have no symptoms. These patients are said to be asymptomatic and these stones are called 'silent stones'.
What complications can these stones cause?
What is the treatment?
Medical: Treatment of symptoms of pain with injectable or oral painkillers.
No medical therapy is available for gallstones as such which can cure the disease. Though, injectable or oral antibiotics and supportive medications are available for treating the infection.
Surgery : Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is the only way to treat gallstones. This can be done by conventional (open) method or a well established endoscopic (laparoscopic) method which is now the 'Gold Standard'.
The surgery is called Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy (Lap. Chole).
For this operation, the surgeon makes few tiny incisions in the abdomen and inserts surgical instruments and a miniature telescope with a mounted video camera into the abdomen. 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 uses the instruments to carefully separate the gallbladder from the liver, ducts and vessels. The gallbladder is then removed through one of the small incisions. Recovery usually occurs within a day in the hospital, followed by few days of rest at home.
Because the abdominal muscles are not cut during laparoscopic surgery, patients have less pain and fewer wound complications.
If the surgeon finds any difficulty in the laparoscopic procedure, the operating team may decide to switch over to open surgery. It is called 'open' surgery because the surgeon has to make a 5 to 8 inch incision in the abdomen to remove the gallbladder. Open surgery is now required in less than 0.1 percent gallbladder operations at our institute.
What if a stone slips into the Common Bile Duct (CBD) ?
Slippage of the stone(s) in CBD may cause pain or jaundice or both. This situation requires an endoscopy (ERCP) for removing the stone(s). This should preferably be done before surgery. However it may also be done after the operation.
How do we confirm if a stone is in the CBD?
Sometimes a stone in the CBD may not show on ultrasound, however patient may have symptoms which are indicative of the same. In this event, the patient requires magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatogrphy (MRCP - an MRI scan) which shows the presence of stones in the common bile duct.
What is ERCP?
The surgeon may use endoscopy for removing CBD stones before gallbladder surgery. Once the endoscope is in the small intestine, the surgeon locates the affected bile duct. An instrument on the endoscope is used to cut the duct, and the stone is captured in a tiny basket and removed with the endoscope. This two-step procedure is called ERCP and EPT.
Non surgical treatment
Non surgical approaches are used only in special situations such as when a patient's condition is not fit for anaesthesia and surgery. This does not cure the patients as it only provides symptomatic relief.
Don't people need their gallbladders?
Fortunately, the gallbladder is an organ that people can live without. Losing it won't even require a change in diet. Once the gallbladder is removed, bile flows out of the liver through the hepatic ducts into the common bile duct and goes directly into the small intestine, instead of being stored in the gallbladder.
Points to remember :
Can the surgery be performed as a day care procedure?
Yes, day care surgery may be performed in young and selected patients. The patient is supposed to be fasting and would be called to the operating theatre in the morning. The operation will be performed and the patient would be observed for 4-6 hours post operatively in our day care facility. The patient would normally be discharged the same afternoon. However, if the need arises, he/she could be admitted overnight as well.
What happens after admission for surgery?
The patient is normally admitted to the hospital a day prior to surgery or on the day of surgery. After admission, the patient is examined and investigations reviewed by one of the team members. Also, a member of the Anaesthesia Team would conduct the pre-anaesthetic check-up. Pre-operative investigations are performed, if needed. The patient would need to be fasting overnight or for 8 hours for the surgery but can take his regular dose of medicines with sips of water. (Please follow the instructions given by the attending staff.)
Next morning, the patient is shifted to the operating theatre about an hour or so prior to the surgery. After surgery, the patient is shifted to the recovery ward under the care and supervision of our Anaesthesia Team. The patient is observed in the recovery ward normally for 2-4 hours after surgery and then shifted back to the room. Hence, the patient may come back to the room after about 5-8 hours after he/she has left the room.
Oral diet is started with sips of water when the patient returns to the room. He/she gradually progresses to drinking all liquids on the same day of surgery. The patient is encouraged to sit up, visit the toilet and move around the same day. In fact, movements are encouraged because this causes a dramatic reduction in pain and increases the sense of well-being.
The patient is given a normal breakfast next morning and will generally be discharged from hospital after a visit by one of the team members. On discharge, a discharge summary with the advised medication is handed over to the patient along with the date for next appointment.
Post operative instructions and information
We wish you a speedy recovery...
This is not a substitute for medical advice.
In case of a query, please contact your Doctor.