Gallbladder Disease

What is gallbladder disease?


Gallbladder disease includes inflammation, infection, stones or blockage of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is located under the liver and it stores bile produced in the liver which aids in the digestion of fat. Types of gallbladder disease include:


  • Gallstones

  • Cholecystitis - inflammation of the gallbladder

  • Chronic acalculous gallbladder disease

  • Gangrene or abscesses

  • Growths of tissue in the gallbladder

  • Congenital defects of the gallbladder

  • Sclerosing cholangitis

  • Tumors of the gallbladder and bile ducts

Achalasia

Symptoms


The most common symptom of gallbladder disease is intermittent pain called biliary colic. Usually, a patient experiences a pain in the upper right abdomen near the rib cage, which can spread to the upper back. Some patients with biliary colic experience pain behind the breastbone, and nausea or vomiting may occur.


Some people with symptomatic gallstones develop inflammation in the gallbladder which occurs when the duct is blocked. The symptoms are similar to those of biliary colic but are more persistent and severe. They include pain in the upper right abdomen that is severe and constant and may last for days. Pain frequently increases when drawing a breath. About a third of patients have fever and chills, and may experience nausea and vomiting.


Chronic gallbladder disease involves gallstones and mild inflammation. In such cases, the gallbladder may become scarred. Symptoms of chronic gallbladder disease include complaints of gas, nausea and abdominal discomfort after meals and chronic diarrhea.


Stones lodged in the common bile duct can cause symptoms that are similar to those produced by stones that lodge in the gallbladder, but they may also cause:


  • Jaundice

  • Dark urine, lighter stools or both

  • Rapid heartbeat and abrupt blood pressure drop

  • Fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, with severe pain in the upper right abdomen


Diagnosis


  • Blood tests

  • Ultrasound and other imaging techniques


Treatment


Surgery may be warranted to remove the gallbladder if the patient has gallstones or the gallbladder is not functioning normally. Most of the time this can be performed laparoscopically (through small incisions) as an outpatient procedure.