gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ that stores and concentrates bile.  The gallbladder is connected to the liver by the hepatic duct. The liver produces bile (a digestive fluid that aids in the digestion of fat) and the gallbladder stores it.

Function

The function of the gallbladder is to store bile and concentrate. Bile is a digestive liquid continually secreted by the liver. The bile emulsifies fats and neutralizes acids in partly digested food. A muscular valve in the common bile duct opens, and the bile flows from the gallbladder into the cystic duct, along the common bile duct, and into the duodenum (part of the small intestine).

Conditions and diseases

Sometimes the substances contained in bile crystallize in the gallbladder, forming gallstones. These small, hard concretions are more common in persons over 40, especially in women and the obese. They can cause inflammation of the gallbladder, a disorder that produces symptoms similar to those of indigestion, especially after a fatty meal is consumed. If a stone becomes lodged in the bile duct, it produces severe pain. Gallstones may pass out of the body spontaneously; however, serious blockage is treated by removing the gallbladder surgically.

Removal of the gallbladder

In some cases, the gallbladder must be removed. The gallbladder is not essential to healthy digestion, so removal of the gallbladder rarely causes long-term complications. The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy (pronounced co-lee-sist-eck-toe-mee). In a cholecystectomy, the gallbladder is removed through a 5- to 8-inch long cut in your abdomen.

Once the gallbladder is removed, bile is delivered directly from the liver ducts to the upper part of the intestine.

Reasons for gallbladder removal

The gallbladder is usually removed because of severe gallstones and gallbladder cancer

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder.

Complications from gallbladder removal

Complications are rare. When complications occur, they may be in the form of: bleeding, infection and injury to the duct (tube) that carries bile from your gallbladder to your stomach.

Some patients also experience diarrhea. The cause of diarrhea after gallbladder removal isn’t clear.

Statistics

  • complications of gallbladder disease include infection, gangrene and perforation
  • diabetics with gallstones tend to have more complicated gallbladder disease and should be refereed to a surgeon sooner than non-diabetics
  • roughly 750,000 gallbladders are removed each year
  • most gallbladders are removed laparoscopically