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Old 05-31-2005, 10:53 AM   #1
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Is this my gallbladder?

I have been having upper-right sided pain (directly underneath my right rib cage). Sometimes it feels likes a stabbing pain, and other times it feels like a buring sensation. This has been occuring for about one year. I only had one incident where I was kneeled over in pain. Other than that episode, the pain is very mild, but pretty constant (i.e. I have this pain at least once a day). I don't know if this is my gallbladder, but I don't know what else it could be. My doctor won't listen to me and he won't order any tests. He told me that I had to be having the pain at that moment in order to conduct some type of blood test. What test is he talking about and is there any other test that can be helpful in the diagnosis of gallstones? Is this a serious situation?
The pain does not occur after meals, particularly. It happens sporadically and I can't think of any precipitating event to associate it with. What I really want to know is how long can I go before this becomes an emergency situation (if it is, in fact, my gallbladder). Can you live with a few stones, mild pain without needing surgery? Is there any other way to remove stones without removing your gallbladder?


Thanks for your help!

 
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Old 05-31-2005, 01:23 PM   #2
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

It sounds like it could be your gallbladder. I think the blood tests he is talking about would be liver and pancreas function. If you have a stone that is blocking a duct, this can cause issues with those organs. However, they can do an ultrasound to see if you have stones, and it doesn't matter whether you are having pain right then or not. Then, if the ultrasound shows stones, plus you have pain in the gallbladder area, that's pretty good evidence that you have found the source of the problem.

You can live with stones for your entire life without needing them removed, but they can also become a life-threatening emergency. Also, do you really want to have the pain for the rest of your life? There are a few non-surgical options, but many of them are only temporary and take a long time to work. Generally, the treatment for symptomatic gallstones is to remove them.

I had tons of stones, and some that were an inch in diameter, but I never had an acute attack. I just had more of a constant, chronic pain. I went to a GI doc and he did all kinds of tests, then came back and said he didn't think it was my gallbladder, even though the ultrasound showed stones. So I asked him what else could be causing the pain, and he said he had no idea. I finally convinced him to send me to a surgeon, even though he warned me that the surgeon wasn't going to do anything because it wasn't my gallbladder. The surgeon spent five minutes reviewing my test results, walked into the room, and told me the gallbladder had to come out very soon. Within a week I had surgery. The surgery instantly relieved the pain I had had, and now that I have recovered from the surgery and gotten my body accustomed to life without a gallbladder I feel great. So the moral of the story is: if all of the symptoms fit, insist on getting the testing done, get a second opinion, and don't settle for somebody telling you that they just don't know what is causing your pain and that you should just live with it.

Good luck, and I hope you find some answers soon!

 
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Old 05-31-2005, 04:49 PM   #3
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

hey kehorner,

Sorry to barge in on your thread, just looking for some gallbladder advice. While having an ultrasound to check my liver (my enzymes were in the 1,000's) the technician found four 1 1/2 inch gallstones. My dr said I wuld have to have it out immediately.. to make a long story short, the doc thought that the liver enzymes were high due to the stones, but a few weeks later they found I had acute mono. Anyways, I have a consult tomorrow w/ a surgeon and I am freaking out. I am scared out of my mind to have surgery and don't feel like I need it because I am not having any gallblader symptoms. My GI said that since I am 28, I am young and should have it out now. He also said it felt tender and inflammed. Could I be having little symptoms and not even knowing it? What is surgery like?? I am scared out of my mind....

thanks

 
Old 05-31-2005, 05:37 PM   #4
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

Meatball: This is an easy surgery if done laproscopically...three or four holes in your abdomen...takes about 20 minutes (I was put under at 6:55 AM and woke up enough to read the clock in recovery at 7:35 AM). You'll be sore for a few days...but I ran two miles 1 week to the day after my surgery. IF you don't get it taken care of, the inflammation can get very severe and the stones can move on you and cause blockage. If you end up in the ER with a bad attack they may have to do the full blown surgery where they really open you up...6 weeks recovery rather than 1 week.
I'd opt for having it out now. I don't miss it a bit! Good luck!

 
Old 05-31-2005, 05:47 PM   #5
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

First of all, if you do have it out, it isn't really a horrible surgery. I would much rather have my gallbladder out again than have another ankle surgery!

You are right to be concerned. Unnecessary gallbladder removal is a big problem. A lot of doctors go on the basis that if you have stones, you need to have your gallbladder out, but that is just not true. Lots of people are walking around with gallstones and they don't even know it. Typically, it is the small stones that cause dangerous problems, so big stones are better. However, you need to keep in mind that the ultrasound doesn't always show all of the stones, so there could be small stones in there too.

So be sure to ask why it needs to come out if that is what is recommended. Is it a short-term concern, or a long-term concern? If the doctor just wants to take it out because it could cause problems "at some point," then you could put it off. However, the other side of that is that if you are young and healthy now, you are better prepared to come through surgery without complications. But you also have to consider that some people (a very small percentage, but it is a risk) develop ongoing digestive system issues after getting their gallbladders out. And, if you don't get it out, you have that worry that a small stone could clog a duct and cause a life-threatening emergency, or that you could have a bad attack of pain at an inconvenient time (like while travelling).

Just go in to the surgeon prepared to ask all of your questions and get answers that you understand.

I guess a summary would be:

Pros:
-no worries about future problems caused by the stones
-decreased risk of serious complications caused by the stones
-you are young and better able to recover from surgery
-since it's not an emergency, you can plan ahead for surgery

Cons:
-you may never develop problems from the stones or need to get it out
-any surgery carries risks of complications
-gallbladder removal can cause ongoing problems in some people
-surgery hurts

I hope that helps. It might help to write down a list of questions for the surgeon beforehand, so that you make sure that all of your questions get answered. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!

 
Old 05-31-2005, 05:51 PM   #6
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

thanks so much for all the info, I am going to write down what you wrote and bring it into the doc w me tomorrow.. will let you know what he says..

 
Old 05-31-2005, 10:14 PM   #7
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Titchou
IF you don't get it taken care of, the inflammation can get very severe and the stones can move on you and cause blockage. If you end up in the ER with a bad attack they may have to do the full blown surgery where they really open you up...6 weeks recovery rather than 1 week.
This happened to me! I'd have it treated before you get to this point!

 
Old 05-31-2005, 10:19 PM   #8
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

The thought of surgery really frightens me, I hate the thought of being "out". I have the fear that I will never wake up..

Also I have heard horror stories about people that say getting their gallbladder out was such a mistake and that they have more problems now, than they did befor they had the surgery...

I don't know what to think or believe anymore!

 
Old 06-01-2005, 01:00 AM   #9
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

Well, there are the risks of getting the gallbladder out, mainly of developing bile salt diarrhea, but this is a fairly rare occurrance. If it does happen, it often goes away with time, and there are medications that can help. Most of the issues that people have with gallbladder removal are short-term, such as post-op pain and short-term diarrhea as the body digests. Of course, this is not to belittle the severity of these risks, but they are fairly rare.

My own experience was the exact opposite of that. I had absolutely no post-op complications. I went into the OR at 1:15 and was home on the couch by 5:30. I had surgery on Thursday and was back in class part time on Monday. One week later, I was in classes and working from 12-9. I didn't have any of the pain from the gas they use to inflate your abdomen, although this is a common problem. It can be quite painful, but it is temporary. I had no infections, no extreme pain, no horrible diarrhea... I did have a bit of an adjustment period for two or three weeks where I was a bit nauseated on and off and food wasn't really very exciting for me, but that passed and I am back to myself again. My biggest complication was that one of my dissolving stitches took a long time to dissolve, and kind of bugged me a bit for a while. So I guess I had a best-case scenario recovery.

And of course, there are risks associated with any surgical procedure, but these risks are very low. There is practically no chance that you won't wake up. I have had two surgeries in the past two years, and I'm still around to tell the tale. You won't even know that you're going to sleep. They'll put in the IV and then inject some meds... You might feel a little loopy for a second or two, or you might not notice anything. Then the next thing you know, you're waking up and it's all over. My first surgery, they put in meds in the OR, and I don't even remember feeling loopy, I was just awake in the OR one minute, then waking up in the recovery room the next. When I had my gallbladder out, they gave me some meds in the pre-op area (versed, I suspect) and I felt a bit loopy/high. I think I said something like "this is fun" and I'm not even sure that I remember going into the OR. The next thing I knew, there I was in the recovery room.

They have very sophisticated monitoring equipment, and the anesthetist is there solely to make sure that you are breathing and your heart is beating and that nothing happens to you. You are probably safer on the operating table than you are when you are driving down the freeway! They will put a tube down your throat, but not until after you are asleep, and they will take it out before you wake up. This makes sure that you have no problems breathing during the surgery. And even if the surgery takes a "long time" in terms of gallbladders, you will still probably only be out for an hour. I think mine took less than 45 minutes.

I hope that helps with your anxiety some. Your surgeon or nurse will also be able to explain the risks and the probability of each and answer your questions. Good luck.

PS... Four 1.5 inch stones is a lot of stones! The gallbladder is normally the size of a small pear or so. I imagine that your gallbladder is stretched! Which probably is impeding its function and may also be irritating the surrounding tissues and could cause issues with your liver. So that's probably why they want to take it out.

Last edited by kehorner; 06-01-2005 at 01:06 AM.

 
Old 06-01-2005, 03:24 AM   #10
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Re: Is this my gallbladder?

Seabreezes,

I had my gallbladder out almost 3 weeks ago..I also had the stabbing pains under my right ribs, along with daily chronic pain. Most of the time I didnt notice it coming from eating food either. I had been in pain for over a year when I had my surgery.

I had the ultrasound first which showed no stones but the Drs got sidetracked with some other problems they found. A few months later I was sent for a hida scan which showed my gallbladder was only functioning at 17%. Long story but I finally got my gallbladder removed and am feeling pretty good now. Ask your Dr for the ultrasound and if that doesn't show the problem a hida scan.

Meatball,

I was very scared to have surgery also, mostly of the anethesia and nausea. Kehorner is right, the anethesia if very safe these days and the anethesthist will monitor your every breath and heartbeat. Ya and ask for the versid before surgery,, I call it the happy shot. I also didn't get the nausea I was so worried about. I was given shots for it before surgery and woke up without no nausea.

If its your gallbladder causing your liver numbers to go up it would be a good idea to have it out. I talked to 3 Drs before I made the finale decision to have my surgery. I have polycystic kidney and liver disease so they could not give me a guantee it was the gallbladder causing all the pain. But Im feeling much better now so Im glad I had the surgery, and the biopsy on the gallbladder showed it was bad.

 
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