By Alan M. Tripp, DO, Methodist Surgical Services
The gallbladder is a small sac shaped organ within the abdomen in its right
upper quadrant that stores and concentrates bile made by the liver. This
organ usually functions well and is a silent part of every day digestion
but it can be the source of both acute and chronic medical problems.
What function does the gallbladder serve?
After a meal, the body signals the gallbladder to release bile into the
small bowel, which helps break down fatty products so the body can absorb them.
How can the gallbladder lead to medical problems?
The gallbladder can form hardened deposits of digestive fluid called gallstones,
ranging from the size of sand particles to larger than a golf ball. When
the stone(s) block the outflow of bile from the gallbladder, this may
cause intermittent chronic problems/symptoms or can lead to acute inflammation
of the gallbladder. Gallstones that block the main duct system can lead
to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), causing intense abdominal
or back pain that can be severe and life threatening.
What are the signs or symptoms of gallstones?
• Sudden pain in the right upper abdomen or in the center of the abdomen
just below the breast bone
• Pain that wraps around to the back or up to the right shoulder
• Bloating, increased belching and passing of gas
• Nausea and vomiting
Are there risk factors to forming gallstones?
Risk factors include being female, over age 40, overweight, and/or eating a high fat, low fiber or high cholesterol diet. Family history,
personal history of liver disease, pregnancy, or losing weight quickly,
including weight loss surgery, can be risk factors as well.
How do I find out if I have gallstones?
An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to look for stones and possible
changes to the gallbladder and duct system, is usually the test of choice.
When should I see a doctor?
See your primary care physician if you have any of the above symptoms
that cause you concern. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop
abdominal pain so intense that you can’t sit still or get comfortable;
a high fever, chills and/or sweats; or have yellowing of the skin or whites
of the eyes.
About Dr. Tripp
Alan M. Tripp, DO, is a board-certified General Surgeon with Methodist
Surgical Services, who provides care at 1413 North Elm Street, Suite 204,
in Henderson. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Tripp, please call 270-830-9973.