The Most Common Questions About Gallbladder Disease | East County

David W. Dexter, MD, FACS, board-certified general surgeon with Lakewood Ranch Medical Group, answers some of the most common questions about gallbladder disease.

Q: What are the symptoms of gallbladder disease/attack?
A: Gallbladder disease is one of the most common diseases seen by general surgeons. Most people associate gallbladder attacks with a sharp, right-sided abdominal pain. That is true, but typically severe attacks are preceded by many months or years of more subtle symptoms. Most individuals incorrectly label their gallbladder attacks “heartburn, reflux, indigestion or upset stomach.” Typically, mild gallbladder symptoms are associated with a sense of bloating, fullness or mild discomfort that starts 20-30 minutes after eating and lasts 30-60 minutes. This is usually felt in the upper abdomen or below the right ribs. Symptoms tend to occur after eating fatty or greasy foods, but can occur after any meal as disease worsens over time.

Q: When should someone experiencing symptoms head to the emergency department versus trying to treat with over-the-counter (OTC) medications?
A: It is common for people to treat their symptoms with over-the-counter antacids. These are generally ineffective. Mild attacks usually resolve on their own within 30-60 minutes. One should report to the emergency department when pain is severe, prolonged or associated with nausea and vomiting.

Q: How is gallbladder disease usually treated?
A: There is only one successful treatment for gallbladder symptoms and disease. The gallbladder is removed surgically. In most cases this is done laparoscopically using very small incisions. Laparoscopy has revolutionized gallbladder surgery. Most patients go home the same day and recover in one week.

Q: Can gallbladder disease be treated without surgery?
A: Regrettably, there are no successful treatments for gallbladder disease other than surgical removal. Many treatment options other than surgery have been tried. None are as effective as removing the gallbladder. People often decrease the fat in their diet to avoid or delay surgery. This usually results in only temporary improvement. Eventually, symptoms return prompting the need for surgical removal.

Q: What can individuals do to prevent having gallbladder issues, such as diet and exercise?
A: There is no easy recommendation to completely avoid gallbladder disease. Women are three times more likely than men to experience gallbladder symptoms. Risk factors for gallbladder disease include obesity, pregnancy, increasing age and participation in weight loss programs. A healthy diet and lifestyle are a good idea but have not been shown to eliminate gallbladder risk.

Q: Are gallbladder problems hereditary?
A: Gallbladder symptoms often run in families. There may be some element of hereditary disease, but they also may share a similar diet and lifestyle.

Q: What type of gallbladder surgery is being performed at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center?
At Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, most gallbladders removal is aided by using a robotic, laparoscopic approach. This advanced surgical technology helps to minimize risk to the patient.

CTA: If you believe you may be experiencing gallbladder symptoms you may call Dr. Dexter’s office at 941-254-6767.

Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk to your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.

Physicians are on the medical staff of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, but, with limited exceptions, are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians.

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