Some gall: gallstones can cause painful symptoms that appear completely unrelated and can lead sufferers down a puzzling path, looking for a solution to their suffering.
“All kinds of things could be experienced by the patient. So the patient might feel epigastric pain, pain in the upper central abdomen, they might experience chest pain. Many people have pain that shoots into the back and some people have pain that shoots up to the right shoulders,” says Dr. Barry Haicken, who is a general surgeon for Lee Memorial Health System.
The source of their discomfort is within a small organ attached to the liver. The gallbladder stores bile used to breakdown fats. Stones form when bile contains too much cholesterol or doesn’t empty properly. People generally don’t know they have gallstones, unless one makes itself known.
“No body knows why they start to move or what stimulates them to start be a problem. But usually the pain starts when the gallstones start to drift to the outlet of the gallbladder and then they block it up,” says Dr. Haicken.
Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Ones that don’t cause symptoms, generally don’t need treatment. When someone experiences pain, gallbladder removal is the surest form of relief.
“It would be considered bad medicine to just remove the stones. There was a time when people did that, but once a gallbladder is diseased it will be making more stones,” says Dr. Haicken.
Today most gallbladders are removed laparoscopically.
“Instruments have been perfected so we now can remove the gallbladder in about 45 minutes. For most people as day surgery,” says Dr. Haicken.
Once your gallbladder is removed, bile flows directly from your liver into your small intestine. You don't need your gallbladder to live and the pain- people are happy to live without.
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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.