What are Gallstones?
Gallstones are deposits that form on the inside of the gallbladder, the organ which sits under the liver and stores bile. Bile is a fluid produced by the liver that helps to digest fatty substances in the food we consume. Gallstones form over time when there is either too much bile salts or cholesterol in the body, often due to our food choices.
What are the symptoms of Gallstones?
Gallstones are common and occur more frequently in middle-aged women. The majority of people with stones actually have no symptoms.
When symptoms do cocur, this is usually in the form of abdominal bloating or pain in the upper portion or right side, usually triggered after a heavy meal of oily food. Occasionally this pain can move to the back or the tip of the right shoulder blade.
The pain can sometimes be severe, accompanied by fever or yellowing of the skin (jaundice) if the stone has fallen out of the gallbladder and becomes is stuck in one of the tubes leading from the gallbladder. This will require emergency treatment at the hospital.
Treatment involves antibiotics, painkillers and surgery to remove the entire gallbladder with the stones within.
Laparosopic Surgery for Gallstones
The treatment of choice is laparoscopic gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy), where the entire gallbladder with the stones within are removed using cameras and precision instruments, through 4 small cuts (each 1 to 2cm in size) on the abdomen. The smaller cuts result in less pain, less infection risk, a shorter hospital stay and faster return to normal activities.
The traditional method of open surgery, where a longer 8cm to 10 cm cut on the right upper abdomen is made, is reserved in cases where the gallbladder is very stuck due to complications of the disease.
Life after Removal of Gallstones
Patients do not suffer any long-term side effects or malnutrition after removal of the gallbladder. Some patients may experience some diarrhoea in the first few weeks after surgery but this can be dealt with by avoiding oily foods and will disappear once the liver makes adjustment to having new storage space for the bile.