The gallbladder is a pear-shaped, hollow organ that is situated below the liver, on the upper right side of the abdomen. It is responsible for storing and concentrating bile, a yellow-green fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fat for digestion. The gallbladder belongs to the biliary tract along with the liver and bile ducts.
Any infection, inflammation or blockage that affects the gallbladder and its functions is called a gallbladder disease. Left unaddressed, gallbladder disease can lead to more serious medical emergencies requiring gallbladder surgery, including the removal of the gallbladder.
Common gallbladder conditions and their treatments include:
Gallstones are hardened deposits that form from cholesterol and bilirubin, a substance produced from the natural breakdown of red blood cells. They range in size and number. Some patients may have several tiny stones, while others may have a single large stone. Gallstones are characterized by sudden sharp pains in the right part of the upper abdomen, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and indigestion. Treatment-wise, smaller gallstones are typically passed out the body through the stool. Larger stones, which block the bile ducts and cause severe pain, are better treated via gallstones surgery in Singapore.
Biliary colic is a sudden dull pain in the right side of the upper abdomen that occurs when the cystic duct or bile duct is blocked, preventing bile from flowing from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Commonly known as a gallstone attack, biliary colic is often caused by gallstones that may be large or numerous enough to block the passageway of bile. The pain is usually worse after mealtimes but would subside. Removing the gallstones or the entire gallbladder is the recommended treatment for chronic biliary colic.
Jaundice refers to the yellow discoloration of the skin, eyes (sclera), mucus membranes and other bodily fluids. It develops when the body produces too much bilirubin, a natural, yellow-orange by-product of the breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as hepatitis, gallstones, obstructed bile duct and gallbladder cancer. The treatment for jaundice will depend on its main cause. If it is due to gallstones or gallbladder cancer, the treatment is often the removal of the gallbladder.
Inflammation and irritation of the gallbladder is known as cholecystitis. It is usually caused by gallstones that clog the bile duct, causing bile to build up, thus causing inflammation. Certain injuries, medications, cancer and immunodeficiency are other causes of cholecystitis. Left untreated, this can lead to life-threatening conditions such as gallbladder rupture, gangrene and serious bacterial infections.
Gallbladder perforation or gallbladder rupture occurs when the gallbladder’s walls break or leak. It is commonly caused by an untreated gallstone or chronic cholecystitis. If left untreated, a perforated gallbladder may lead to systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) or sepsis. With a perforated gallbladder, gallbladder removal is typically the recommended course of action.
Gallbladder polyps refer to abnormal growths that protrude from the interior lining of the gallbladder. Most polyps are benign and small, usually forming due to cholesterol. Larger polyps, however, may suggest a higher risk of cancer in the future. Gallbladder polyps may be removed from the organ via laparoscopic surgery. In serious cases, the gallbladder may be removed.
As with most cancers, gallbladder cancer usually doesn’t show any symptoms until it is in its advanced stages. It is rare but very treatable when caught early. Treatment-wise, cholecystectomy is performed by a gallbladder surgeon in Singapore in order to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Surgery may also be accompanied with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
At KYM Surgery, our gallbladder specialist can perform both open and laparoscopic gallbladder surgery:
- Laparotomy (open surgery) – A long incision is created on the abdomen to access the gallbladder. This method is recommended for patients who have sustained scarring from previous operations, or those who are diagnosed with a bleeding disorder.
- Laparoscopic cholecystectomy (keyhole surgery) – Surgical instruments and a lighted instrument attached to a camera are inserted into the body through small abdominal incisions to access the gallbladder.
Between the two, keyhole surgery is the preferred option because it is much less invasive and results in minimal downtime and discomfort, as well as reduced risk of complications.