Testing for Gallbladder Problems

To help diagnose gallbladder problems, you will have a physical exam and a blood test. You may be give an ultrasound scan if you doctor believes you have gallstones. The test checks for gallstones by using sound waves. If further tests are necessary, you may also have a CT scan which allows your doctor to rule out alternative medical causes for your discomfort; a HIDA (Hepatobiliary scan) which checks gallbladder function by using a radioactive fluid, or an ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) which helps find and remove gallstones by using a thin, flexible scope guided through the mouth and stomach to the bile duct.

Understanding the Gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile and is located in the upper right side of the abdomen. After you eat, the gallbladder releases bile into the common bile ducts. The bile travels to the small intestine where it helps with digestion. If stones form in the gallbladder, they can block the release of bile. This can cause painful attacks, especially after a meal. A gallbladder attack can have severe pain in the upper abdomen, as well as pain in the back, ribs, or right shoulder blade. There may also be heartburn, vomiting, or nausea. Gallbladder stones are the most common cause of gallbladder problems.

How are gallbladder problems treated?

Often times, gallbladder problems are cured by removing the gallbladder. Usually we can perform this operation laparoscopically, using very small incisions in your abdomen. The surgeon will use dye to see if any gallstones have moved into the duct. Your surgeon will place small clips on the bile and duct vessels to prevent bleeding and bile leaks. The gallbladder is then detached from the liver and removed through an incision. The bile will now travel from the liver directly to the small intestine. Because the surgery is minimally invasive, you can expect to go home within a few hours.

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