Side Effects of Gallstones and Gallbladder Removal

The small organ called the gallbladder which contains a digestive fluid called bile is located beneath the liver. From the gallbladder, the bile goes into the small intestine. Gallstones may be very small or more significant, solid masses of calcium, cholesterol, or even bile. Gallstones are widespread, affecting the elderly who have crossed 50 years, maybe 15 percent. Most sufferers experience no tangible symptoms. Side effects of gallstones could occur. If symptoms are lacking, no treatment is required. If various symptoms do occur, gallbladder removal surgery is the solution.

Pigmented and cholesterol stones

Cholesterol stones are most common and are dissolved by a medication called ursodeoxycholic acid. The medication works for small stones without calcium deposits. Stones usually contain calcium deposits. Pigmented stones are found mainly in chronic hemolytic anemias sufferers. In such a condition the red blood cells get prematurely destroyed in the bloodstream.

How big are gallstones?

Gallstones come in a variety of sizes. Some are tiny like bits of sand. They could be larger like a golf ball. It could be a single gallstone or several gallstones developing together.

Symptoms of gallstones

A bile duct infection is the result of a stuck gallstone within it. The infection is known as cholangitis. Intense abdominal pain is likely along with fever and chills, nausea, and vomiting. Antibiotics may treat such a condition.

Abdominal Pain results from gallstones. The pain occurs in the upper abdomen beneath the ribcage. The pain may also be felt in the upper back, according to seriousness. It is reported that the pain increases after eating fatty food. Gas and nausea may follow after eating. Diarrhea is also reported. The erratic pain may last for minutes or an hour. The pain may recur much later after the first attack.

Jaundice results from bile gathering in the body when the bile duct is stuck with a gallstone. The skin and eyes turn yellow in jaundice. Urine turns dark. The stool appears light. Jaundice could lead to another infection. Consultation with a professional is necessary.

Gallstone removal surgery is recommended

Biliary colic refers to cramped abdominal pain, particularly after eating food like pizza. Bloating is usually experienced during such pain. Cholecystitis means gallbladder inflammation when a gallstone blocks the bile flow from the gallbladder. Though not often, gallstones infect the pancreas or cause cholangitis, a severe bacterial infection of the biliary tree. Uncommonly, constipation occurs as a result of pancreatitis. Even rarer is gallstone ileus when a gallstone enters the intestine. The result is a blockage of digested food from the small intestine into the colon.

Later in life in the fifties, gallstones being quite common, gallbladder removal becomes necessary if life gets disrupted by indigestion and nausea. Non-surgical options do not exist but lifestyle changes help. Reduced body weight and a restricted diet without fried and fatty foods enable manage symptoms. They may not help in the long term but surgery could be delayed. Some do not have the patience to make these changes and some do not find relief.

Risks of avoiding gallbladder removal surgery

The danger of gallbladder infection and rupture arises in the absence of surgery. Sepsis or a blood infection could result. Such situations are rare and do not usually threaten existence. Indeed, the benefits of surgery are far greater than the risks involved. As compared to the earlier decades, laparoscopic procedures are less invasive. Risks of complications are minimal or nonexistent, and small incisions are made. Recovery is much faster and is back to work as usual soon after. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be the best solution.

Side-effects of removal surgery long term

It is good to know that life continues as usual even without the gallbladder. Without a gall bladder to collect bile, the liver releases bile straight into the small intestine. Digestion continues usually with most eatables. The problem is that very fatty and greasy foods are hard to digest without the gallbladder. High-fiber foods are also difficult to digest.

Surgery carries some risks and the intestines may be damaged during surgery. Though long-term severe side effects of surgery are uncommon, minor problems may arise. Flatulence and diarrhea along with constipation are possibilities between 3-6 months. Eating fatty foods may result in such conditions.

Among long-term side effects, the risk of more gallstones forming is present. After gallbladder removal too, gallstones may form. Abdominal pain may return. Medications or another surgery is the solution.

Post-cholecystectomy syndrome occurs in many patients after gallbladder removal. Diarrhea, bloating, and wind result from the liver constantly releasing bile. Constant abdominal pain is also reported. According to severity, diet changes are required along with medications for relief.

The digestive system suffers long-term effects. After removing the gallbladder, bile storage has no location and goes directly to the intestine. Digestion suffers especially from fatty foods since bile is not released soon after eating. The digestion does not work correctly.

Cancer risks increase. Colon cancer is a possibility. The constant release of bile may have a role to play.

Benefits of gallbladder removal

Abdominal pain and infection are a thing of the past with the gallbladder removed through surgery. Gallstones may not form any longer. If gallstones remain untreated, the infection may get worse. A bursting gallbladder is a possibility that can become life-threatening.

Risks associated with laparoscopic cholecystectomy

With all the advantages of laparoscopic surgery, some uncommon risks may arise −

  • Bleeding

  • Leaking bile in the body

  • Anesthesia complications

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Hernia

  • Liver, intestines, or bile ducts may be injured

  • Infection in the abdomen

  • Numbness 

Advantages of laparoscopic cholecystectomy

  • Tiny incisions, and scars

  • Quicker recovery and return to everyday life

  • Lesser pain

  • Less risks of complications from surgery

Following up on laparoscopic cholecystectomy

Drink lots of water and eat high-fiber foods to aid bowel movements. Do not lift heavy objects. Return to normal activity levels gradually. Walk some distance each day to prevent blood clotting. Follow the doctor’s instructions in detail.

Take gallstones and gallbladder removal surgery positively if unlucky to face such situations. Remember that they are widespread, especially in later life. Medications and food restrictions help to manage the long-term effects quite satisfactorily.

Updated on: 23-Feb-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started