The gallbladder is a small pouch under the liver that stores bile according to WebMD. When it is empty after a meal the gallbladder lays flat. Before you eat the organ is about the size of small pear. It is connected to liver, the pancreas, and the small intestines via bile ducts that send the necessary enzymes to where they need to go.
When the small intestine needs this bile to help digest fat, the gallbladder sends this bile into the small intestine and then stores it again for future use. According to an article posted on the University of Maryland’s Medical Center website, the gallbladder is connected to the liver and pancreas with a duct that adds digestive enzymes to the small intestines for food digestion all at once.
The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile. Bile is released when the liver signals the gallbladder to release the thick yellowish fluid into the small intestines to help break down fatty foods into fatty acids that the body can use as energy. Bile contains mostly cholesterol and salts. It is these salts that can form painful gallstones that may necessitate drugs or removing the gallbladder.
Several conditions can form as a result of an abnormally functioning gallbladder according to WebMD. Gallstones may form when salts crystallize into larger fragments. As a more serious side effect of gallstones, the gallbladder may become inflamed and surgery may be needed to remove the organ. More seriously but rarer, gallbladder cancer or gallstone pancreatitis are more serious situations that may need surgery to correct when other organs may be affected by the performance of the gallbladder.
Testing can be done using several methods. An ultrasound can pick up any gallstones that may have formed in the bile ducts and can look for blockages. MRIs and x-rays can also help determine if there are gallstones. Your doctor will decide if having your gallbladder removed is the best choice for treatment.
If gallstones are frequent and larger than normal, a surgeon may perform a cholecystectomy. Oral drugs may also be used to help dissolve the gallstones should you be unable to have surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is usually performed to remove the gallbladder and is fairly common. A video of the surgery can be found here on YouTube. Usually patients go home from the hospital later that day after having the gallbladder removed in this way according to the National Institutes of Health.
If your gallbladder is removed there may be some non-serious side effects such as softer stools or diarrhea. They also recommend that a normal diet will often make the gallbladder obsolete since the liver produces enough bile on its own to flow into the small intestines without the necessity of being stored. A more serious complication from gallbladder surgery may be an infection of the bile ducts and should be treated immediately before the infection spreads.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing pain in the abdomen on the right side you should consult with your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
WebMD, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and the National Institutes of Health all provided information for this article.