The gallbladder is a small, pear-sized sac which is located beneath the liver on the upper right-hand side of the abdomen, and is connected to the bowel and liver by tubes called the cystic and common bile ducts. Its role is to store the bile produced by the liver and aid in digestion, but when crystallised cholesterol and bile salts build up they produce a solid mass known as a gallstone.
It’s not entirely clear why some people develop gallstones, which can form in sizes ranging from a grain of sand to a golf ball.
Signs and symptoms of gallstones
The most common symptom of gallstones is a pain in the upper-right abdomen, although it can sometimes feel like a band running across the whole area and migrating to your shoulders. The pain usually lasts anywhere between a quarter of an hour and several hours, with attacks sometimes separated by weeks, months or even years, with no fixed pattern.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can develop gallstones, but certain groups seem to be at greater risk than others. Women, the over 40s, those with diabetes and those who are slightly overweight are particularly susceptible, as are those who have lost weight rapidly, are on cholesterol-lowering drugs or are taking oestrogen, for example through HRT or the contraceptive pill.
If a gallstone blocks the cystic duct it can cause inflammation and infection, a condition known as cholecystitis. This is often accompanied by intense pain and requires a cholecystectomy to remove the gallbladder.
Gallstones blocking the bile ducts can cause jaundice, dark urine and skin itching, and also require immediate medical attention. There is also a risk that the pancreas will become inflamed if you have gallstones, and this requires immediate medical treatment as it can be a very serious condition.
For those with recurring pain and at risk of developing an infection, surgery is the best option. During a cholecystectomy, the surgeon will remove the gallbladder with the stones, a routine, half-hour long procedure conducted by minimally-invasive keyhole surgery.
As one of the most well-qualified and experienced surgeons in the treatment of gallstones, Mr Achal Khanna offers cholecystectomy treatment to patients in Milton Keynes and the surrounding area. If you are concerned that you may have a problems with your gallbladder and require expert advice and surgery, please contact Mr Khanna’s clinic: