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5 Signs You Might Need Gallbladder Surgery

5 Signs You Might Need Gallbladder Surgery

Gallstones are extremely common, affecting up to 15% of adults in the United States — or nearly 25 million men and women — at any given time. In many cases, these hardened deposits of cholesterol and bile are small enough to remain asymptomatic and unproblematic. 

But for the hundreds of thousands of people who have their gallbladder surgically removed every year, gallstones are often numerous enough or big enough to cause pain, inflammation, infection, or all the above.  

As a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive gallbladder surgery, Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, provides long-term relief for people who’ve been diagnosed with acute or chronic gallbladder problems. 

Let’s explore five signs and symptoms that can indicate you may need gallbladder surgery. 

1. You’re having epigastric pain

The primary symptom of gallbladder disease or gallstones is epigastric pain, or pain that occurs in the upper right side of your abdomen between the top of your stomach and the bottom of your ribcage. The nature of epigastric pain depends on the underlying problem:

Biliary colic 

Gripping, intermittent pain in the upper right abdomen is the main symptom of biliary colic, the mildest and most common early symptom of gallbladder disease. This pain, which typically comes and goes, may radiate into your upper back or toward your right shoulder blade. It can last for a few minutes or a few hours, and often occurs following mealtime.  

Acute cholecystitis

Acute cholecystitis — also known as a gallbladder attack — is the sudden inflammation of your gallbladder. It’s typically caused by a blockage of gallstones or bile sludge in any of the gallbladder ducts. The pain associated with this condition is like the pain caused by biliary colic, but it’s far more severe and persistent, lasting several hours or even several days.  

The sharp, unrelenting pain brought on by a gallbladder attack may radiate into your back and get more intense every time you take a deep breath. It may also cause your upper abdomen to feel tender to the touch.

2. You’ve got chronic indigestion

Gallbladder disease and the presence of bothersome gallstones can have a pronounced effect on your digestion each time you eat; in fact, many people with gallbladder problems experience chronic indigestion. 

Although post-meal belching, bloating, heartburn, and abdominal discomfort can be a product of stress, overeating, eating too quickly, fatty foods, and food intolerances, they’re also common indicators of gallbladder problems, including gallstones.  

3. Your pain comes with nausea

All types of gallbladder problems, from chronic gallbladder disease and biliary colic to acute cholecystitis and gallstone pancreatitis, can leave you feeling nauseated or make you vomit. 

With an acute gallbladder attack or gallstone pancreatitis, nausea and/or vomiting are typically accompanied by intense upper abdominal pain, bloating, a low-grade fever, and chills. 

With biliary colic or chronic gallbladder disease, nausea and vomiting are more likely to occur after mealtime, along with excess gas, indigestion, and heartburn.   

4. You have a fever and the chills

A fever is your immune system’s way of raising your core body temperature to fight an infection. It’s perfectly normal to develop a fever and the chills when you’re fighting off a viral illness such as the flu or a bacterial ailment like a urinary tract infection (UTI). 

But when a fever and the chills are accompanied by severe, persistent upper abdominal pain, it could be a sign of a gallbladder attack or other serious gallstone complications — the kind that should be diagnosed and treated immediately. 

When a fever and the chills are caused by a blocked bile duct or a gallbladder infection, prompt care — which often means gallbladder surgery — is the only way to relieve symptoms and keep the infection from spreading to other parts of your body. 

5. You’re showing signs of jaundice

If gallstones become lodged in the common bile duct, or the duct that’s shared by your liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, you may become jaundiced. Jaundice is a condition that causes your skin, the whites of your eyes, and your mucus membranes to turn yellow because of high levels of a yellow-orange bile pigment called bilirubin.    

While adult jaundice can be a symptom of hepatitis, an autoimmune disorder, or a variety of other conditions, it’s also a common sign of gallstone blockages and gallbladder inflammation (acute or chronic).   

If you suspect you might need gallbladder surgery, the team at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy can help. Call 602-393-1304 to reach our office in Glendale, Arizona, today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano any time.  

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