Gallstones: Medicine Or Surgery?
If you have gallstones that were discovered during an ultrasound or CT scan, and they’re not causing you any discomfort, there’s an excellent chance you won’t have to do anything about it. Not so for the over half million Americans who have their gallbladders removed each year, most of them women over sixty.
Your gallbladder is a small sac in the shape of a pear located below your liver in the upper right portion of your abdomen. Gallstones are tiny pebble-like substances that develop in the sac. If you’re feeling pain in your upper right abdomen, in your back under your shoulder blades, or pain under your right shoulder because of gallstones and it’s increasing, your doctor may recommend treatment.
The most common procedure is called a cholecystectomy. Recovery after this laparoscopic surgery usually involves only one night in the hospital, and normal activity can be resumed after a few days at home. Because the abdominal muscles are not cut during laparoscopic surgery, patients have less pain and fewer complications than after “open” surgery, which requires a 5- to 8-inch incision across the abdomen.
Once your gallbladder is taken out, bile will flow directly from your liver into your small intestine, rather than being stored in your gallbladder. Luckily, you don't need a gallbladder to live, and the removal shouldn’t affect your ability to digest food. It may cause diarrhea, but that’s usually temporary.