The Gallbladder Must Go

My doctor just called to tell me the results of an ultrasound of my abdomen I had two days ago, due to some minor but frequent pain in my right side. Apparently my gallbladder’s messed up and needs to be removed. He thinks it’s probably genetic - just like my (borderline) high cholesterol is genetic, and probably my arthrits as well. He says that because I’m only 33, I’m not overweight, and I have a fairly healthy diet (no red meat, lots of whole grains and veggies), although I must admit I do love drinking wine, to excess sometimes.

I just want to hear from folks out there who have had theirs removed and their experiences. I’m also wondering if I should get a second opinion or if this is a common enough issue that my doctor’s diagnosis would be pretty concrete (he’s a family practitioner but hasn’t steered me wrong on anything so far). Also if any experts out there have any other info that’d be great. I really haven’t had any other symptoms beyond the minor discomfort - I’ve had heartburn that bothered me more. If it’s bad enough that it needs to be removed why doesn’t it hurt worse?

I’m sure it’s probably not that big a deal at all - they don’t even actually cut you open, I hear. Yet somehow the thought of having a part of me removed just makes me all anxious.

A friend of mine had his removed via arthroscopic surgery this past winter. He was up and walking about later that day. He said he’s had dental work done that slowed him down more.

Glad to hear that your pain has been minor–definitely get this done before THAT changes. (I would, however, get that second opinion first, never hurts to be sure.) I’ve had attacks that made me feel like my ribs were breaking and I’ve had them that made me throw up. My sister had them so bad that she had to completely strip–the pressure of any clothing at all was unbearable–take pain meds, and she’d put a cold pack on her back and a heating pad on her stomach. She was barely 20 when she had the surgery–young, for sure, but while in the hospital, she met a seven year old about to have the same operation!

The surgical pain–well, I’ll admit that this was the only surgery (I’ve also had three C-sections, and a tubal pregnancy removed) that I threw up after. Of course, that was from the anesthesia, not the pain. But other than that, it was by far the easiest recovery compared to the other operations. The staples caused the most discomfort, because I’m overweight and they tugged a lot. Once they were out, the one incision at my breastbone was fairly tender and I couldn’t wear a bra for a while. But mostly the other incisions just seemed to be more annoying than painful, and the one in my navel didn’t hurt much at all (scar tissue there helped, I’m sure!).

The really fun part is the diarrhea. Don’t you just love the sound of that? :smiley: It was so bad at first that I couldn’t finish a meal without running for the bathroom. I began to suspect that they’d done bypass surgery on me–running a connection that bypassed my stomach and small intestine and went straight from my throat to my bowels. That will improve, although in the eight years since my surgery, I still tend to have to go within a short time after I eat. It’s just not so urgent nor so quick-acting!

They think that genetics played a part in mine and my sister’s gallbladder trouble. We had different problems–she had stones and I had lack-of-function. But from what we were both told, Native American ancestry can contribute to this. Apparently, even as small a dose as we have (our great-great-grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee) can be a factor.

Hey, I haven’t been here that long, and I’ve read some really good threads on this before. Do a quick search.

As proof I haven’t been here that long - I haven’t figured out how to link to threads inside the SDMB. A thread titled “Share your post gallbladderectomies stories with me” had lots of the stories you’re looking for. Also Velma’s plaint about having to have gall bladder surgery at 28 may strike a chord.

I once assisted in the gall bladder removal of a girl who was 18. Some people just get a sucky hand of cards dealt them by their bodies.

Just to give you another side of the story, my daughter at age 16 had to have a shitload of diagnostic tests for a completely unrelated thing, but it showed that her gallbladder was absolutely chocker-block with gallstones of all shapes and sizes.

She whinges about a lot of things, but never about digestive pain. :smiley:

My grandmother had her gallbladder removed in the seventies and they cut her half open. I believe that she was down and out for nearly six weeks. :eek: Thank whatever gods you worship for progress.

Just for your perusal, here are my experiences with gallbladder troubles, first thread here, from just under a year ago when I woke up with searing hot pain (towards the end of the thread, I’d thought I’d passed the damn thing! I read that post and went “HUH?” Then it all came flooding back to me, my doctor telling me he believed it had passed, how thrilled I was, then going to see my surgeon and him dropping the news on me: “You didn’t pass it [you loon!], it’s too big.” Now I remember why I switched doctors last year…)
And from just a few months ago, when I had laproscopic surgery to have it removed. It really wasn’t that bad. It’s been about three months now or so since I had the surgery, and all I have left are three little scars. They look like cat scratches, really. There’s another one in my bellybutton, but it’s not red, and just looks like another crease.

Glad to hear your pain is minor, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean you get a “get out of surgery free” card. It might, and a second opinion never hurts. However, if you’re 33 and it’s starting… well. My surgeon told me (this is in my case only, your YMMV, and all that good stuff) that my gallbladder would continue to produce that bad bile, and would just keep forming more stones. More stones are bad news. Small stones get caught in ducts. Large stones cause large pain. Pancreatis, jaundice, all knds of bad, bad things can ensue. It’s really best to get that bugger removed if that’s the case.

It’s funny you mentioned heartburn worse than the minor pain… you know that having stones can cause severe heartburn? Since having mine removed, I’ve had very, very little heartburn. Also, for some reason or another, I am no longer lactose intolerant. Bonus.

Many people warned me about the diarrhea and flatulence after the surgery, however, I will chime in and say in at least one case - mine - I had no diarrhea at all, and though I had some minor flatulence, it happened a couple of days later, and lasted only about an hour. And it wasn’t loud. It was, however, quite relieving.

The surgery itself really isn’t a big deal - they knock you out pretty darn good. I didn’t dream, and I don’t remember anything. Apparently I sing as I’m going under. Then I woke up; and the nurses will ask you if you have pain, just be honest with them and tell them. They give you some goooood stuff. I was sent home that same day, after a nurse stayed with me, made sure I ate, drank (saltines and apple juice, and I still remember feeling like it was the food of the gods at that moment), used the bathroom, and walked across the room (gently!). I dressed myself, was wheeled out, and my husband took me home. Recovery took about a week, even though I was up and about after a couple of days. The first day was mostly deep, deep sleep. You do have to allow your strength to come back, and you’ll be winded for a while. No pushing it. It wasn’t too painful, though they did give me some heavy duty meds to take if I needed them, and for the first few days I took them faithfully, it wasn’t terrible at all. I felt bruised. Like I’d been beat up. Oh, and I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted by the end of the week (I ate slowly and very little the first few days, as instructed, however, I wasn’t terribly hungry anyway, and the rest of the week was self-imposed restrictions - I’d gone so long avoiding fatty foods that the thought of it, while tempting, was still a little scary at first. Once bitten twice shy, and all: when fatty foods used to cause me to have searing, white hot pain, you can understand my reluctance to just begin eating it again, even though I was allowed!) Anyway, today I have no diet restrictions, and I eat whatever I like with no problems at all.

If I had to get that surgery again, I’d do it. I wouldn’t volunteer for it, it’s not fun, but I’d do it again if I had to.

No personal gallbladder experiences here, but I just had to chime in with a “me too!” on the whole “saltines and apple juice” thing. I had surgery last week (much more minor, to remove two orthopedic screws from my ankle) and I had this exact same experience upon waking up…after fasting overnight and feeling generally blah, apple juice and saltines seemed like nectar and ambrosia. I was struck by the extreme peacefulness of the experience. Not something I’d seek out, mind you, but very nice all the same, in that moment.

If there is a larger point I’m trying to make, I guess it’s that although surgical recovery has its icky bits, if you just try to relax and live in the moment, there will be good moments. Your only job is to get better and feel better, and everyone else knows this (or at least they should), so don’t worry, listen to your body, and take it easy.


I think you mean laparoscopic surgery.

I sure hope so!

I agree about the pain meds. If you need 'em, get 'em. There’s no contest going on, and everyone has different tolerance levels. If you breeze through needing only Tylenol, that’s great. But if you need something stronger, you haven’t failed, you aren’t a wimp, you aren’t weak. What you are, is–CUT OPEN. True, they aren’t large incisions, but you’ve still been CUT OPEN. There’s no reason to go around hurting just because “my coworker had this same procedure and it never bothered him at all!”

Just because this was the easiest operation I ever recovered from doesn’t mean I had NO pain. I did. But all things are relative! I had LESS pain than I did from other surgeries, but I still needed some pain meds!

I had my gallbladder removed when I was 19, after several years of intermittent but severe attacks. If you’re able to get it taken care of before someone finds you in the corner trying to claw your stomach open, more power to you.

Anyway, I had laparoscopic surgery. Went in on a wednesday and was back in class, albeit moving a little slowly, the following monday. I stayed one night in the hospital then spent the next few days laying around the house in my pajamas. They gave me some happy pain pills (percocet, IIRC) but I didn’t need to take any after the second day.

Evidently the surgery has become even quicker and easier in the last few years. Earlier this year my dad got his gallbladder removed and his was an outpatient surgery. He was up and pretty much fully functional the next day.

Finally, if you’re in pain, take drugs. Unmedicated pain will slow the healing process, and that leads to all sorts of unpleasantness.

I had a gallbladder attack that eventually led to its removal. The attack came on my first day at a new job. It was bad enough that I thought it was a massive heart attack. I was taken out on a stretcher - quite a way to be introduced to the rest of the team!

I had laparoscopic surgery, but I also had some adhesions that caused problems with them trying to remove the thing. It was attached in places it should not have been. They ended up making about a 1 inch incision just below my sternum to cut it loose.

Recovery was a bit slower because of all of that. I think I was supposed to be up & around in 24 hours. I was out of the hospital in that time, but I was on the couch for several days feeling like - well, like someone sliced open my abdomen.

Your experience will hopefully be much smoother."Share+post+gallbladderectomies+stories

Wow, thanks for all the links and stuff. I’m starting to feel much better about the whole thing. I’m going to look up a gastroenterwhatsit just to see what he thinks, but I’m sure I’ll be fine with it if he agrees with my doctor. I probably oughta see one anyway since I’ve been having other digestive-type issues for several years and maybe he’d shed some light (or maybe it’s all the fault of my gallbladder anyway, in which case good riddance if it goes!). Plus, I think I just met my deductible so insurance won’t be an issue. Hopefully it’ll be this easy when I get my new hip (that’s the arthritis I mentioned earlier).

My dad had his removed two months ago. It was so full of stones that the original incision was not large enough to remove it.

The surgery itself is not a big deal at all. I understand being weirded out by surgery though, for me the worst part about the surgery is just being put under. I have a hard time coming out of it and I hate that shaky / queasy / can’t wake up feeling. But after that recovery from the surgery was quick, I went under at noon and was back home sleeping in my own bed that night.

I am unfortunately still having pain and problems post surgery though. My Dr. warned me beforehand that some people, particularly young women, continue having symptoms after surgery. It is more common if your gallbladder is failing or lazy, as opposed to having stones. This was the case with me, I did not have stones, my gallbladder just stopped working. It is still somewhat of a mystery to my GI specialist, I have now been diagnosed with acid reflux and esophagitis and we are going through various medications to help with that. What’s odd is that other people all say heartburn is a symptom that is relieved with surgery, for me, I never had heartburn at all until after surgery. Now I get severe heartburn, sometimes daily. But my medication helps with that. I don’t know why I would get acid reflux right after having my gallbladder out, but there you have it. My Dr. says gallbladders can be tricky sometimes because they mimic other symptoms. If you are having yours out because of stones it is probably more straightforward.

I know I am an odd duck in this instance so likely you will have the surgery and feel all better. But I do wish I was more prepared to have continuing issues because I was so hoping the surgery would be my cure and I really despaired for a while when it didn’t fix my problems. So I just am sharing my side, not to scare you, but just so that if you do still have problems you will know that there are other things it could be, or contributing factors. My GI doctor is wonderful and promises “he will find out what is wrong with me and I won’t be this way forever.”

After doing more research I also found that some people have more trouble than others adjusting to not having a gallbladder. You may be able to eat anything and everything, but it also may take a while for your body to relearn how to deal with food. So don’t panic if you are still having trouble after surgery, for some people it just takes more time.

Good luck!