Your Gallbladder and What To Do With It

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January 19, 2017

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Indigestion, heartburn or pain in the upper-right side of your stomach. You may feel one or more of these after eating a big meal or something spicy. If the discomfort is mild, you might just chalk it up to a sour stomach. But when the symptoms persist, pain becomes more severe or doesn’t seem to go away, could it be your gallbladder acting up?

(Todd Mangione, D.O., a general surgeon with Baptist Health Medical Group, explains the surgical treatment for gallbladder disease. VIDEO by George Carvalho)

There are a select few organs the body can function without, and the gallbladder happens to be one of them. The small, oblong sac-like organ is located between the liver and the small intestine. It helps with digestion, in particular, breaking down fatty foods that are ingested.

“I liken the function of the gallbladder to a laundry machine because it mixes bile from the liver with food to act as a filter and then empties the bile into the intestines for the body to eliminate what’s not needed,” says Todd Mangione, D.O., a general surgeon with Baptist Health Medical Group. “Essentially, the gallbladder helps wash away waste, mostly fatty deposits that can build up as they travel through the digestive tract.”

The gallbladder most often runs into problems when too much fat is trying to move through the digestive system, or when bile gets trapped at the opening to the intestines. When this happens, the bile hardens and forms “stones,” referred to as gallstones. When the stones try to pass into the intestines, they can cause pain. But if they’re small and unobstructive, they usually don’t cause much discomfort. Many people with gallstones don’t have any symptoms.

“Most of the time, gallbladder disease is related around stones,” Dr. Mangione said. “Women are prone to get gallstones more than men, mostly due to pregnancy when the gallbladder gets tipped backward and can’t empty properly.”

Gallstones can inflame the gallbladder and result in infection. An inflamed gallbladder, or cholecystitis, can also cause pain. A “gallbladder attack” is used to describe this severe pain that can be debilitating and necessitate a visit to the emergency room.

When a person experiences an extremely painful attack, has regular pain or other uncomfortable symptoms interfere with daily life, removing the gallbladder is the most often prescribed treatment.

The Baptist Health News Team asked Dr. Mangione to explain gallbladder surgery and what patients can expect. Watch the video now.

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