2020-11-18T09:31:45-06:00December 8th, 2020|

Ask the Experts: Can I do anything about gallbladder problems before they become an emergency?

Gallbladder problems can cause pain in the upper right side of your stomach, vomiting, fever and other unpleasant symptoms.

Don’t wait for your concerns to become an emergency! By talking to your provider early on, you can prevent more serious illness.

If necessary, surgeons can even perform minimally invasive elective gallbladder removal, which has an easier recovery than an emergency surgery.

Many people think of gallbladder surgery as an emergency procedure. However, patients can have their gallbladder removed electively if needed – and it’s usually an easier procedure with a quicker recovery.

Nabajit Choudhury, MBBS, MS, is a general surgeon at Regional One Health. He said there are advantages to addressing gallbladder issues before they become a crisis.

“Elective gallbladder removal is a fairly common surgery I do on an outpatient basis, and most patients recover quickly,” he said. “If the gallbladder is removed through emergency surgery, the recovery time can be longer and there is a higher risk of infection and complications.”

Dr. Choudhury offered his advice on how patients can seek the best care.

How do I catch gallbladder problems early?

Symptoms include pain in the upper right side of your stomach, or in your back or chest. Pain may get worse when you take deep breaths and can be triggered by eating spicy or fatty foods.

Nabajit Choudhury, MBBS, MS, said gallbladder surgery can bring fast relief. “After surgery most patients immediately feel better and no longer experience symptoms. While they need to recover from the surgery, the pain from the gallbladder issues is gone.”

Patients might also experience vomiting, fever, bloating, itchy skin and fatigue. Some become jaundiced and lose weight.

Dr. Choudhury said patients with these symptoms should see their primary care doctor and have an ultrasound scan. Most gallbladder pain is caused by gallstones, and an ultrasound is the best diagnostic tool for spotting stones and other gallbladder problems.

What does gallbladder surgery involve?

For elective gallbladder surgery, patients arrive for surgery in the morning and are placed under general anesthesia. In most cases, the procedure takes about an hour.

Dr. Choudhury operates laparoscopically, which means patients have a few tiny incisions near the belly button and in the abdomen.

As soon as the patient’s pain is well controlled, they can go home.

The procedure is more difficult if there is long-standing chronic inflammation or if it is an emergency. In these cases, patients often present to the emergency room, and then require a roughly two-hour surgery under general anesthesia. In rare cases, Dr. Choudhury cannot operate laparoscopically, and the patient will require a large incision near their rib cage.

Patients who have emergency gallbladder surgery often stay in the hospital for a day or two.

What can I expect from my recovery?

Just like the procedure itself, recovery is easier when gallbladder surgery is done electively.

After a routine outpatient laparoscopic procedure, you can expect to be sore for a day or two. On the third day, you can typically do normal household chores, and many people can return to work after a week. After two weeks, you’re usually back to normal.

The classic symptom of gallstones is pain in the upper right stomach. Patients should see their provider and discuss treatment options before the issue becomes an emergency.

Patients who have emergency surgery can take a month or more to fully recover, especially if they needed a larger incision. In many cases, their gallbladder was infected by the time they had the procedure, and they’ll need to be on an antibiotic. Risks for complications and infection are also higher with emergency surgery.

The good news is gallbladder removal is highly effective. “After the surgery most patients immediately feel better and no longer experience symptoms,” Dr. Choudhury said. “While they still need to recover from the surgery, the pain from the gallbladder issues is gone.”

He said patients may still need to be careful about eating fatty or spicy foods, but in most cases gallbladder removal does not have long-term negative impacts.

Make an appointment today

Dr. Choudhury sees patients at our East Campus, 6555 Quince Road, and our Outpatient Center, 880 Madison Avenue.

For an appointment at the East Campus, call 901-515-3150. For an appointment at the Outpatient Center, call 901-545-6969.