AS A SURGEON, I am asked this question all the time, usually right after I inform a patient that their abdominal pain is due to gallstones. There is an aura of mystery surrounding this little green organ, with a lot of folks unclear as to its exact role in our bodies and our health. Gallbladder disease affects 25 million Americans each year, and it has been rising over the last three decades. With this in mind, let’s tackle three of the most frequently asked questions.
WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
The gallbladder is a small organ that sits beneath the liver and below the ribs on the right side of the abdomen. It varies in size, but is usually three to five inches in length. Its sole function is to store bile for digestion. Bile is a liquid produced by the liver, stored in the gallbladder and secreted into the intestines to help us digest the fat in our meals.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE GALLSTONES?
Gallstones are collections that form in the gallbladder over time. They are very common, vary in size and number, and are asymptomatic 80 percent of the time. They can cause abdominal pain, especially after fatty meals. They can also cause the gallbladder to become inflamed or obstructed. This is when it is recommended to remove the gallbladder.
CAN I LIVE WITHOUT MY GALLBLADDER?
We absolutely can. The liver will continue to produce the bile we need, and when the gallbladder is removed, it takes over the function of storing and secreting the bile.
In future columns, I’ll talk more about gallbladder disease, including its effects on our bodies and the treatment options available. In the meantime, I hope this was helpful!
This column is sponsored by Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center.
column by DR. SHIVA SEETAHAL
BIO: Dr. Shiva Seetahal is a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive procedures at Heart of Florida Physician Group, Surgical Specialists. He has published more than 20 scientific articles and book chapters. For questions related to surgical health, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted April 8, 2016