The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ, connected with the common hepatic duct that lies under the liver. The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, a yellow-green liquid, composed of water, lecithin, cholesterol, bile salts and bilirubin. Bile is produced by the liver and helps the digestion of fats.
Occasionally, stones may develop in the gallbladder or duct due to an imbalance in the ratio of cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin in the bile. The optimal ratio allows for bile to remain in a liquid state, however an imbalance will lead to the formation of stones.
If a stone lodges in the cystic duct or Hartmann’s pouch it can result in a blockage of the normal flow of the bile. This presents as severe pain in the upper abdomen. If the pain lasts for hours and resolves, then this is likely an episode of biliary colic, a gallstone temporarily blocking the cystic duct.
Symptoms of gallbladder disease include:
- Pain generally on the right side of the abdomen, which may radiate to the back
- Abdominal pain following a meal
- Intolerance of fatty foods
- Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
- Bloating, gas, and painful digestion
The patient may become jaundiced (yellow), caused by stones travelling into the bile duct and causing a blockage.
Dr Bhandari is a leading Gallbladder Surgeon in Perth.