Tell me about your gallstones!

In the course of seeing the doc for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I had an ultrasound and learned that I have gallstones. Considering the composition of my diet, this was practically a foregone conclusion.

My doctor is now trying to herd me into an operating room, telling me that my symptom (diarrhea, which has now cleared up completely with the removal of coffee and tea from my diet) is because of the gallstones and I have to have the removed because they could give me pancreatitis and kill me.

Well, I’m not buying it. Not that it couldn’t happen, but I’ve been reading up around the net, and not once did I see diarrhea listed as a gallstone symptom. What I did read is that 70% of people with gallstones never have a problem with them, and the ones who do, well, there isn’t a whole lotta mystery involved because they are in agony.

I am not in agony. I am not even uncomfortable. I figure if the stones ever become problematic, I will either get plenty of warning in the form of various symptoms, or if it is a blockage I will be in agony.

I am not big on prophylactic surgery. IN fact, I am 100% against it. Some of the Dopers may recall that I have, shall we say, “issues” with anesthesia, and therefore will not subject myself to it unless my survival is at stake. I do not see this as being the case right now.

So…tell me your gallstone stories. (There was a thread I found about the surgery, I read that one entirely.) Do you still have them? Do they bother you? Any complications? Any non-surgical treatments? Dietary changes? What does it feel like when they act up?

(I am scheduled to see two different gostroenterologists in January to get their opinions. I just believe that one should not automatically submit to unnecessary medical treatments based on statistics and probabilities. )

I am not a doctor (certainly) and I can only tell you about my experiences (which differ from yours).

I developed gallstones at a relatively young age and have had them for a while. I first noticed them when I had “attacks” (pain) which escalated to vomitting and I guess some diarrhea. The attacks lasted a few hours. They did not occur when I lowered my fat intake, and the volume of food I ate.

The doctor said that he thought I could control the attacks with diet (low fat) and for the most part, that’s what I’ve done. Once in a blue moon I will feel some discomfort coming on, and if I drink strong lemonade (for real—that’s what works for me) I can make the discomfort go away almost immediately. So, for the most part, I’ve lived a pretty comfortable life with my gall bladder intact. I do realize that I may eventually have to get it removed, but I haven’t bothered since it rarely gives me any trouble (knock on wood).

I do hear that some gallstones are triggered by certain things – caffiene, for one (which sounds like the culprit in your case). For me, it’s been simple. Fatty greasy foods do it. I can get by with eating one somewhat fatty meal now and then, but if I keep piling on the grease meal after meal, it’s a BAD idea. So I try not to do that.

I had to have mine out but I did die during the operation and again 5 days later before they could head in for a repair so I may not be the best ad for removal :wink: It was about 10 years ago when they were not as good at the keyhole surgery as I assume they are now.

The pain of an attack was intense and there was nothing else in the world until pethedine was sourced. One night I was alone and powerless to even call for help for 8 hours the pain was so intense. You know when your GB is causing problems and needs to be dealt with!

I too have IBS and if anything I get more diarrheah now than before the thing was ripped from my warm body, but I do not have nights of total agony. I can also eat fats and oils as I wish. You will know if you need the operation, hell, you may just reach in and remove it with a can opener yourself should attacks begin.

I was at work and I was sure I was having a heart attack, except the pain was on the right side and not the left. Well, it was my gallbladder - turns out it was full of stones. Until that day, when I had my first ambulance ride, I had no indication of any problems. And I didn’t start having the diarrhea until after the surgery.

It was in 1999, and I’m just fine now.

Please note:
IANADoctor, nor do I have any cites to support the following, merely personal anecdotes.

According to the surgeon (and a couple other medical professionals I spoke to at the time) gallstones are frequently one symptom of a “bad” gallbladder, along with IBS. (IOW, it’s not just a bad diet, but the organ itself causing the stones.)

Bad, as in diseased, damaged, or defective. In my case, mine was a week or two away from doing me in. Diseased and necrotic. Nice to know you’ve been carrying a lump of partially decomposed meat around in your gut. Sometimes it really does need to come out.

As far as gallstones themselves:
I’d apparently had mine since at least the age of 17. Pain, extremely mild, every so often, like a stitch when you’re winded. Sometimes there’d be a shortness of breath, and the sweats, but, for reasons I can’t fathom, no actual pain. It was like having the physical signs of pain, without the ouchy part.

Until that bad one. The pain wasn’t nearly as bad as the inability to catch my breath. I ended up in the ER, with a misdiagnosis of anxiety attack. And then, a couple-few years later, the big one. Pain became the focus of my existance. All I knew was the wrenching cramp in my gut, that woke me up out of a sound sleep and folded me up like a cheap hide-a-bed. Wonderful way to wake up, that. You are at once convinced that it’s a heart attack, and that death isn’t such a bad prospect, after all, if it means this pain will stop.

Blockage was the report, after the fact. Yeah, if this happens, you’ll know it right smart. And I never had a chance to experiment with diet or medication, as my stones were never diagnosed as such until it was time for surgery.

Which was such a cakewalk I’d be embarassed to relate the story, in a “medical woes” conversation, if it weren’t for my recovery. (That had nothing to do with the surgery, though, so it’s moot here. My roomate was… interesting to deal with, the night after my surgery.) In any case, the laproscopic surgery commonly used now, as opposed to the abdomen-wide scar that used to be the norm, leaves tiny little holes (four, in my case) that close up quickly and with very little aggravation. One staple apiece, and you’re out the door.

As for now:
My liver still works just fine, but with no gallbladder to store the bile, it gets dumped into my system at a constant rate. So I eat less, but more frequently to maintain some balance. With IBS as well, I couldn’t tell you for sure which problems to attribute to what. Increased fiber intake seems to have solved all of my problems, as well as dicyclomine hydrochloride (Bentyl is the non-generic, I b’lieve) as needed.

I seem to be an extreme case, though, by your OP. For me, it really wasn’t an option to do otherwise.

You have good days and bad. Forget the statistics and probabilities, the pain will tell you if you need the surgery. (Assuming an ultrasound doesn’t show disease, et al.)

[sub]And it ain’t kiddin’ when it comes a-knockin’, either.[/sub]

Skee, thanks for freekin’ me out, man!

How did they determine how long you’d had them for?

De nada. The real freak-out was the guy in the next bed. When they wheeled in the crash cart, all I could think was, “Well, at least he’s not yelling, now. I can get some sleep!” Didn’t happen, though. Going 20 hours or so with no sleep after coming up from general anesthesia is not something I’d recommend for a holiday weekend.

I’d had the same set of steadily progressing symptoms from the time I was around 17, up to the point I had my gallbladder yanked, 12 years later. It never occurred to me until then that both of my parents had suffered with gallstones, and had theirs removed.

Yeah, I know. Dumbass.
“They’re my parents! They’re, like, old, and stuff. I couldn’t be having the same problems as old people!”

Again, though, if your problem is primarily a result of diet, and not a diseased gallbladder, I’d say pass on the surgery, and eat healthy. If it’s not prying too much, what problems do you have with anesthesia? Is this a phobia, or a bad medical reaction to the stuff?

[sub]I never even got to the count backwards from 100 bit. Last thing I remember was, “Okay, I’m gonna inject this sodium pentathol into your I.V. Now this may burn a little, as it moves up yo…” Toasted.[/sub]

I had my tubes tied. I woke up before the end, long before I should have. But by “wake up” I don’t mean that my eyes opened and I said “howdy!”, I mean that my brain became aware and my body could feel, but * ** I had absolutely no control over my body in any way and was unable to indicate that I was conscious. ** * It was, to use a word that does not begin to do the experience justice, a horrifying nightmare.

I have learned since then that while it is uncommon, it is hardly unheard of. It has happened to people during long, agonzing surgeries like open heart, bowel, etc. Now that I know what it’s like, I would venture to say that many “inexplicable” operating-table deaths are a result of pain and fear on the part of a conscious but paralyzed and sensate patient.

So yeah, you won’t see me hopping on an operating table any time soon.

I thought I was going to die because of the pain, felt someone was squeezing me way too tightly. (vomiting etc) So after the ultrasound, I was scheduled for surgery, after my trip to Italy:). I had the keyhole type, wanted to get out of hospital next day because I felt ok, but they kept me over night. Worse part was them trying to find a vein to put the IV, hurt like hell!

Used to be 40, fair, fat and female, but the surgeon said he had taken out gallbladders from 10year old, arab, boys. I think some people’s bodies are prone to stones.:smiley:

thought it was just some back pain, then noticed it hurt in my side. nothing could make me comfortable - just had to wait it out. it would wake me at night and keep me up for 1 - 3 hours.

a few months later i would sometimes have the big one a 15 hour attack that included vomit - the massage chair helped a bit.

had it yanked out - it is like nothing was ever wrong and is like nothing is missing. i’ll sometimes eat only once a day and still no problem

i searched for some type of cure or help. even eating almost no fat i wouls still get one attack per week. the gb flush seemed like bull - if it is bothering you YANK IT!!!

Been there, done that. I’m somewhat of a rarity for having gallstones (though I do have IBS) in that I’m a male, not overweight, and SFAIK have no Native-American ancestry. I have also passed my gallstones. It was not a fun experience, let me tell you.

When I was a kid, my grandfather used to show me his gallstones that he’d had removed thanks to surgery, and I thought that was the neatest thing in the world, until I got them. My symptoms pretty much match what others have described, I’ll add massive nausea to them as well. When I passed them, it was because I deliberately induced them to pass.

I am not a doctor, nor do I recommend this method, but it does work, even though you do put your life at risk in using it. (Hopefully Qaddie will post something here to correct me if I’m wrong.) According to the various herbal medicine books I’ve read, there’s no serious risk unless your gallbladder becomes infected, but there is some discomfort involved. What I did was to mix four ounces of olive oil and four ounces of fruit juice and drank it. After several hours of agony (the whole process takes some eight hours or more), I passed the gallstones in a bowel movement. I had planned on fishing them out of the toilet and saving them (I passed 19 stones, the largest one being the size of a grape.), but by the time I passed them, I was so drained by the experience, that I simply said, “The hell with it.” and flushed them. Supposedly, if one takes a sleeping pill along with the olive oil/fruit juice mixture, it’s not the horrifying experience that I had.

My advice is that you cut back on the fatty, greasy foods, and get more fiber in your diet.

Mine hurt like hell. I started a thread about it. It feels just like getting kicked in your nuts really hard except it is right below your diaphragm. Fatty, greasy foods make them hurt worse. I was put on some medication and the pain went away and supposedly they dissolved. I was in so much pain that I thought I was going to die and because extra irritable. It was basically a squeezing type of pain whenever bile would squeeze through.

I would throw up a clear and yellow liquid (the bile) when it was still active and that would sometimes make it feel better but most of the time I would curl up in a fetal ball and clench my fists and draw blood with my fingernails. It was all that and more and I have a very high pain threshold.

So far the medication seems to have worked. I was on it for a while. I think it started with an S or something and they haven’t bothered me since. If they act up again I am going to go straight to the hospital and try to do my best to get it removed that day.

A friend who also had gall stones had his gall bladder rupture which supposedly is supposedly a life threatening situation. You don’t want to play around with it. Also, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Surgery is no laughing matter either. For what it is worth, you will only have 3 small incision scars from the surgery and will likely be up and about in a few days now. Previously you would have a long recovery time because they cut you open pretty bad.

I had it last year.
I was pregnant, and one night I started feeling pain, but since I’d already had a kid, I knew it wasn’t labor pain. I tried laying down, that didn’t work. And then it gor worse. It felt as though someone were squeezing my middle with barbed wire, and Alien was trying to get out. I couldn’t move I was in so much pain. Hubster had to dress me and carry me out to the car. I’ve never seen him so panicked, nor ever seen him drive so fast. I got int he ER and after a bit, we discovered it was my gall bladder. I did get the script for the pain meds, but being pregnant, I didn’t take any unless it was the paralyzing pain.
I ended up having my gall bladder out though, even after adjustments to my diet, I would have one about once a week, for a while I could almost time it.
It was a pain to be on the floor on my hands and knees rocking back and forth in pain, the surgery was necessary.
I think I ended up having 9 healthy looking stones as well.

I’d say if your gall bladder is healthy, forego it until necessary. But when the pain comes, you’ll be ready to be rid of it. I’d have 10 more kids before going through that again.

I had reflux and pain for years which was always diagnosed as stress. A couple of years ago I went on vacation to New Mexico and proceeded to vomit over the entire state. I ended up in an emergency room in some small town outside of Santa Fe. The doctor diagnosed gastroenteritis and gave me some Fenergin.

by the time I was on the plane home, I hadn’t eaten in a week or drank any liquids for 24 hours. I was vomiting blood. I went from the airport to the nearest emergency room. The doc declared me dehydrated and said I might want to see my doctor on Monday (this happened on Thanksgiving weekend). They shot me full of morphine, wiped off the blood and bile, and sent me home.

When the morphine wore off, I woke up and promptly went into shock. My mother was with me and had finally managed to get hold of my doctor on the holiday weekend. I was told to get to the Medical Center immediately.

Well, my mother found a new skill as a race car driver, and I was unloaded into the ER going in and out of consciousness. I had an quickie scan and the doctor discovered I had a gallbladder the size of a grapefruit! I was pumped full of antibiotics and wheeled into surgery. The surgeon later told me that the gallstone was was about an inch in diameter and blocking the bile duct. I had developed massive gangrene and apparently there was some debate as to whether I would survive through surgery.

Obviously I have survived, but not without complications. I have developed severe IBS and reflux. I will be on medication and an extreme diet for probably forever. I passed another gallstone fragment a few months later through another duct or something - apparently it’s hard to find all the bits and pieces when your guts are full of pus. Also, my doc believes there is a stone trapped in the massive scar tissue in my abdomen, but he says it’s too risky to remove it unless it starts to move. If it tries to pass it could perforate into my stomach or intestines.

Not trying to tell a horror story, but it was really was a terrifying part of my life.

I tried that flush thing with the oil and fruit juice. the method also called for the use of a saline laxitave and lots of L-Ornithine, it is to help open the duct work from the gb. The “stones” that passed, IMO were NOT stones but globs of the olive oil - a week later I was hurtin’ again.

Why did I read this thread? Now I’ve got pains…in my right side, right? Yeah, they’re in my right side. :frowning:

The gallbladder does seem to be rapidly becoming the 21st century’s appendix.

Stoid: Umm, yeah, I’d say piss on the surgery, too, unless it’s life threatening. Yeesh, that’s bigtime bad mojo.

That situation could have gone this way:
I’m coming up from the general, and it’s like swimming through molasses, from the bottom of an olympic-sized pool. The surgeon is trying to tell me that at least one stone passed into the common bile duct during my surgery. They want to put me back under, and stick this “mechanical finger thingie with a camera attached” down my throat, and yank it. Lovely. So I, completely illegally, considering how not fully awake and aware I was, sign off to this.

They wheel me down to some lab, and the nurse/attendant tells me I’ve got to roll over onto my freshly stapled stomach on the next gurney over. I chuckle, wince at the pain, and tell him to go procreate with himself.

Eventually, I ended up holding a pushup on the next gurney. I’ve tried lying down twice, and it ain’t nivver goan’ happen, jack. Into the I.V. goes another dose of Sodium Pentathol, or whatever it was. And I’m waking up again, and trying to remember my name and what the hell just happened to me.

Turns out that the thing had passed all on its own, the second procedure wasn’t necessary, and I risked pancreatitus for nothing. Wonderful.

Thought of something else more germane to the OP:
My father, when his attacks became unbearable, would make himself a cup of strong green tea, pound it down, wait about 5 minutes, then jam a finger down his throat. Yeah, I know. But it generally did the trick for him; I’m assuming that getting peristalsis going in one direction or the other would force the stone to move, and unblock the duct.

Not something I’d really recommend, but in a case of desperate need for pain relief, you’ll try most anything, eventually. It’d get you through a bad attack, I guess.

Best o’ luck, whatever you end up doing, Stoid.

I had my gallbladder out two and a half weeks ago, and I’m basically back to a normal routine. (The only major change: I haven’t started using weight machines again, and I’ll probably hold off for another week or two.)

I had a series of what I now know were biliary attacks last year about this time. Over the course of late December to late February, I had maybe five or six attacks. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with what felt like nuclear heartburn, without the acidy feeling. I wasn’t nauseous, but I was in bad pain for about four hours at a time. Either vomiting or having a bowel movement was the only thing that would make the pain recede. It didn’t seem to correspond with anything in particular that I ate. (At first I thought it happened when I had a really late dinner, but the one mid-evening attack I had scotched that theory.)

Just about the time I decided that I should see a doctor, the attacks disappeared.

Early last month, though, I had three attacks in a week. Once at work, which was moderately painful; once in the middle of the night, the least painful overall and which disappeared in an hour or so; and then the worst attack I had struck about half an hour after I had dinner. One moment I was fine, the next moment I was in blinding pain. I broke out in a cold sweat and had to struggle to keep from fainting at first. (What made it worse was my wife was out of town for the week, so I was home alone. I dithered about whether or not to call 911.) Finally I managed to crawl to the bathroom and make myself vomit, which actually cleared the pain up rather quickly that time.

The next day I called my doctor, who asked a few questions, decided it sounded like gallstones, and scheduled me for an ultrasound.

I didn’t have any further attacks between the diagnosis and my removal surgery, which sucked (mostly the 24 hours afterwords, and then mostly the 10 or so hours it took to recover from anasthesia). But honestly, if I don’t have to go through that intense pain again, the surgery was worth it. Side effects have been non-existent – I know some people get diarrhea, or have to watch their fat intake, but I haven’t run into any problems.

However, if you’re not having attacks, I wouldn’t do the surgery. My understanding, from the research I did, is that gallstones are rather common, and aren’t a problem unless you’re having the attacks. It sounds like a second opinion would be well worth your while.

If you have attacks YANK IT YANK IT YANK IT YANK IT YANK IT!!!

IANAD but it is the best thing a doctor has ever done for me!

Well, so far I have no attacks. Of course, since I learned of their existence I am hyper-vigilent about any sensations on my right side, but really, no problem.