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Can I Live Without My Gallbladder?

Every organ in your body has its own unique function and purpose, but not all of them are vital to your continued health or survival. In fact, plenty of people lose non-vital organs to disease or injury without suffering ill health consequences. 

You can live without one of your lungs or one of your kidneys; you can also live without your reproductive organs. There are also no disadvantages to losing your appendix, and if you lose your spleen, your liver takes over to fulfill its role in immune system function. 

You can live also without your gallbladder — and that’s exactly what you may be advised to do if you develop obstructive and inflammatory gallstones that cause severe pain or discomfort. 

As a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy), Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, can help you understand the ins and outs of gallbladder removal, including what you can expect after the procedure.  

Gallbladder function

Your gallbladder is a hollow, pear-shaped organ nestled beneath your liver. Its only job is to store and concentrate bile, an important digestive fluid from the liver that breaks down dietary fats and helps remove toxins and waste products from your body.   

Your liver and your gallbladder are part of the same, interconnected system, but they couldn’t be more different: your liver is one of the largest, most complex, and most vital organs in your body, while your gallbladder is one of the smallest, simplest, and least critical. 

That’s good news if you happen to develop gallstones, or hard, pebble-like pieces of bilirubin or cholesterol that can obstruct the flow of bile from your gallbladder to your small intestine. 

Gallstone complications

Gallstones affect up to 15% of adults in the United States, or some 25 million men and women. About one in four people with gallstones experience symptoms that require prompt treatment, usually in the form of gallbladder removal surgery. 

Gallstones that block your biliary tract can give rise to an acute gallbladder attack that causes severe abdominal pain; they can also increase your risk of developing serious complications including gallbladder inflammation, gallstone pancreatitis, liver damage, and even sepsis.  

Gallbladder surgery is the only treatment for problematic gallstones that puts an immediate end to excruciating gallbladder attacks and effectively removes the potentially life-threatening health complications they can trigger.

Surgical removal options

Advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques have made it possible to perform most cholecystectomies laparoscopically, rather than with a conventional open approach. 

Unlike an open cholecystectomy, which accesses your gallbladder through one large incision, laparoscopic gallbladder surgery uses four tiny incisions, specialized tools, and a high-definition camera to access the area with minimal tissue trauma. 

Because the laparoscopic method is less disruptive than open surgery, it comes with a smaller risk of complications, a faster, less painful recovery, and minimal scarring.   

Dr. Serrano has also developed an even more advanced approach to gallbladder removal: the ultra-minimally invasive (UMI) cholecystectomy. By combining laparoscopy and robotics, this exceptionally precise, high-tech procedure provides a superior cosmetic outcome with less risk. 

Life without a gallbladder

After gallbladder surgery, your liver continues to produce enough bile to digest the fats in your diet. But instead of storing and concentrating that bile in a “gallbladder pouch,” your liver drips it directly into your digestive tract. 

As your small intestine gets used to the direct flow of bile from your liver, you may experience loose, watery stools for a few weeks or even a few months. Switching to a low-fat diet can help your small intestine experience a smoother transition that’s easier on you, too.  

You can lead a perfectly normal life — and maintain good health — without your gallbladder. In fact, your health may even improve if post-surgical dietary recommendations compel you to cut fatty fried foods and high-fat processed meals from your diet for good. 

To learn more about minimally invasive gallbladder removal at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, call 602-393-1304 today, or use the easy online tool to book a consultation with Dr. Serrano any time.

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