Gallstone disease is the most common disorder affecting the body's biliary system, the network of organs and ducts that create, transport, store, and release bile. Gallstones are hard deposits in your gallbladder, a small organ that stores bile. In the United States, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of adults have gallstone disease.
Gallstones are more common in females than males. Additional risk factors include heredity, obesity, rapid weight loss, pregnancy, rare blood disorders, and certain medications may increase your risk.
Many people who have gallstones do not have any symptoms at all, but if you do, the most common symptom is pain in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen. The pain often radiates to your back or right shoulder or shoulder blade. Other symptoms may include fever, a yellowish tint in your skin or eyes, nausea or vomiting, or clay colored stools.
Some people experience a "gallbladder attack" when they eat foods that are high in fat, such as fried foods. Symptoms of an attack can include stomach pain, bloating, belching/burping, fever, diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, jaundice, or pancreatitis.
All diabetics, and those with symptoms, should be treated because of the high incidence of complications in these patients.
Traditionally, treatment has been surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). This procedure can be performed laparoscopically, which is less painful, less invasive, and offers a significantly reduced recovery time when compared to the procedure being performed open. Most patients are out of the hospital in less than a day and back to work within a week.
The operation is frequently done as an outpatient procedure. Under general anesthesia, gas is introduced into the abdominal cavity to provide room to see and work. Four pencil sized instruments are introduced through the abdominal wall. The gallbladder is removed with the use of electric current or laser. An x-ray may be taken of the main bile ducts. The small incisions are closed with absorbable stitches. Usually patients will be walking and eating within hours.
For many patients, laparoscopic cholecystectomy provides a shorter, less expensive, less painful solution to biliary tract disease and allows a more rapid resumption of leisure and work activities.