Gallbladder and gallstones
The gallbladder is a small organ that stores and releases bile, a digestive fluid that the liver secretes. Bile breaks down fat to make it absorbable by the digestive tract. This is a critical function for the body, as bile is made up of several substances that play a crucial role in the digestion of food, such as bilirubin, cholesterol, and bile salts.
When these substances form hard particles and crystals that are deposited in the gallbladder, gall stones are formed. Gallstones can be dangerous for the body as they block the stream of bile, causing severe pain and leading to complications.
Factors leading to gallstones
Gallbladder stones could form due to several factors such as:
§ Diet and lifestyle
- Body weight/obesity
- Gender and age
- Estrogen levels in women
Surgical removal of gallbladder stones
Gallstones are removed from the body through laparoscopic gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy. The surgeon makes a large incision beneath the ribs to the right of the abdomen, exposing the gallbladder by moving the liver.
All ducts and blood vessels running to and from the gallbladder are cut off and clipped. The gallbladder is then removed to eradicate the gallstones. This procedure is conducted under general anesthesia and is known to have minimal side effects, but may rarely involve gastric disturbances, abdominal pain, and bloating.
The surgeon must accurately identify each duct and artery while cutting and clipping them from the gallbladder. Any inaccuracy in this step can lead to severe internal injuries or death. Hence one must be careful to not cut and clip the wrong ducts or neighboring organs. Dormant stones in the gallbladder are usually revealed by ultrasound scans.
The gallstones must be removed in the early stages of formation, as complications could multiply when it spends more time in the body. Stones usually get wedged in the bile duct, or stuck in the cystic duct. This causes severe pain soon after a meal or while asleep. Such stones can create blockages in the path of bile from the bile duct to the small intestine, which can make the patient’s condition critical.
Common symptoms of gallstones
Gallbladder stones or any obstruction in the bile duct can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Darkening of urine
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disturbed sleep
- Gallbladder inflammation
- Difficulty in breathing
- Light color stools
- Liver infection (hepatitis)
Gallbladder stones are accompanied by various risks and possible complications such as:
- Infection at the site of incision
- Damage to the hepatitis artery during surgery
- Bile leakage
- Internal bleeding in the abdomen
- Liver damage during surgery
- Injury to the bile duct
- Retention of gallstones in the common bile duct
- Perforation of contiguous organs, especially the small intestine
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