A small sac located under the liver, the gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver. When you eat, it releases the bile into the small intestine to help digest fats. While this aids in digestion, the gallbladder is considered non-vital, which means you can live a normal, healthy life without it.
Gallstones are hard “pebbles” that form in the bile – sometimes as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. In some cases there may be no symptoms, but in others gallstones can block ducts and cause inflammation.89
If you have gallstones, you might feel “crampy” or “colicky” pain in your right upper abdomen from 30 minutes to several hours, particularly after eating fatty foods – this is called biliary colic. The pain may go away as the gallstones move, but if a duct is blocked continuously, the gallbladder can get infected and rupture. This situation can be very dangerous. 89
Standard treatment of gallstones
While there are medications and treatments that dissolve or break up gallstones, often the best treatment is to surgically remove the gallbladder itself, known as a cholecystectomy.
Once you and your doctor have determined that surgery is required, gathering as much information as you can about the procedure is important. How your surgeon actually performs the surgery can dramatically impact you recovery period and lessen pain after the operation. There are two different approaches to consider: One is a traditional “open” method (which requires a large 5-8” incision), and the other is a minimally invasive procedure (with smaller incisions) that may reduce pain, scarring, and the risk of complications.
Click here to learn more about minimally invasive gallbladder removal.