Healthy Living

What Are the Side Effects of Gallbladder Surgery?

What Are the Side Effects of Gallbladder Surgery?

Key Takeaways

  • Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is usually done after all other treatment options have been exhausted.
  • One of the most common side effects of cholecystectomy is the disruption of bile production and functions.
  • Many people can still live normal lives after a cholecystectomy.

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located between the liver and small intestine. Even though it plays a big role in digestion, a person can live a normal life without it. This means that the gallbladder can be discarded without necessarily affecting the functionality of other organs. If the gallbladder is removed, the bile duct may step in to play its role which is to store bile. There are two types of cholecystectomy that can be applied for the removal of the gallbladder namely: open and laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Open cholecystectomy is when the gallbladder is removed through a large cut (incision) in the abdominal area. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy, on the other hand, inflicts relatively small incisions in removing the gallbladder. It is less complicated compared to the former. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy has few side effects compared to open cholecystectomy.

What are its side effects?

One of the primary side effects that you may notice after the removal of the gallbladder is unregulated bile functions, which may lead to digestive problems and frequent bowel movements. Another side effect is the reduction in bile production. The bile that is released by the liver may turn thick and sluggish and as a result, you may develop bile stones or experience some painful symptoms. Bile stones can be produced in the gallbladder or in the liver.

Unfortunately, it is common to witness a situation wherein a woman develops bile stones just a few days after having her gallbladder removed. So if you have just had your gallbladder removed and are experiencing sharp pain, chances are high that you may have developed bile stones. You need to consult your doctor right away and bring this to his attention.

Even though the body can still function properly without the gallbladder, its importance in the digestive system cannot be ignored. Getting it removed should be the last option. It should only be done when the extent of its damage is beyond repair. Even if you experience gallbladder attacks, discomfort, pain or digestive problems but your gallbladder is not damaged, you should not rush into the decision of having it removed before exhausting all other options.

Nature did not make a mistake when it placed the gallbladder exactly where it is, and its removal will still affect the body in some way. It may even take quite some time before the body fully adjusts. A surgery is more of a final step and as with other surgeries, you may develop a host of health conditions upon having the surgery, from having an increase in uric acid levels in the body which can cause inflammation of the joints to higher blood sugar levels.

Although you are under the best medical care, you need to think carefully before opting for any surgery, even one to remove your gallbladder. So consult your doctor and exhaust all other options before finally settling on surgery.

Complications of Gallbladder Surgery

The most common complications you are likely to experience when your gallbladder is removed are the following:

  • Actual pain - Once you have had your gallbladder removed, you may experience sharp bouts of pain. Some of these symptoms are experienced by nearly all those who have had the same surgery, but nevertheless you need to inform your doctor regarding the onset of symptoms so that he can help alleviate the pain.
  • Bloating – You may experience bloating once you have had the surgery; you might find the experience of ‘being full’ a bit unsettling. This symptom should pass away in time, but it is a good idea to inform your doctor regarding the same, during your post-operative care.
  • Heartburn – Chances are that once you have had your gallbladder surgery, you may experience frequent bouts of heartburn. These symptoms should either show up immediately post surgery or there could even be a delayed onset of symptoms. You need to consult your doctor at the earliest, inform him regarding your gallbladder surgery so that he can make an effective diagnosis. Once he confirms that your condition is as a result of the surgery, he can then prescribe effective medication to help alleviate the condition.
  • Gas – If you find yourself experiencing feeling bloated with increased gas, then it is likely that this is a symptom due to your gallbladder surgery. You need to consult your doctor on the same, who after running a few tests will help confirm the same. This is why it is important that you consult a doctor on the immediate onset of symptoms so that your doctor can help alleviate the same with the right medicines.
  • Diarrhea – If you are experiencing frequent bouts of diarrhea, post your gallbladder surgery, then chances are likely that this is on account of your surgery. This is why it is important that you seek out immediate medical attention and raise the issue with your doctor so that he can treat you for the same effectively and prevent the occurrence of any dehydration-related health complications.
  • Constipation – On the other hand, you may also experience constipation, post gallbladder surgery. It is vital that you inform your doctor regarding the same, and he will prescribe a course of treatment to help alleviate the symptoms. He may also suggest a few changes to your current diet.
  • Trouble with digestion – If you are unable to digest properly on account of your gallbladder surgery, then you need to raise the issue with your doctor. He would run a few tests, prescribe medication to help alleviate the current condition and may even suggest changes to your diet until your current symptoms clear up.
    If you are already having problems with fat digestion, even with the gallbladder still intact, you should take your time before you decide to have it removed since it is the organ that regulates how fat is digested in your body. So its absence will only worsen your situation. The surgery may go a long way in relieving you of the pain as a result of gallbladder infection, but it is also important to note that 34% of individuals who have had their gallbladder removed still experience abdominal pains after surgery.

Your body requires a steady and regular intake of essential fats in order to function smoothly. And if, as a result of this surgery, you are not able to digest fat altogether, then this will impair the smooth functioning of your body and this may even impact your health. You need to raise the issue with your doctor and he may prescribe a course of treatment to help alleviate the condition. This is why it is vital that you go over all the side effects of gallbladder surgery with your doctor prior to having the operation.

If you happen to be in a situation where you had your gallbladder removed and you can’t properly digest fats, consider adding bile salts or choline in your diet. There are also other options like medications to boost your bile production and undergo a number of bile duct flushes. It is a lot easier to control a situation where bile production is low compared to when production is higher than required. However, there are medications that help regulate bile production.

Clay is also proven to be effective in controlling bile, in some cases, making it another possible treatment option for some. This is why it is important that you have a detailed consult with your doctor regarding your surgery and all the associated side effects and risks, before undertaking the surgery in the first place.

Can I do without a gallbladder?

Many people have asked if they can live normal lives after the gallbladder is removed. Truth is, as much the gallbladder plays an important role in digestion, digestion will still go on even without it. Bile will still flow to the small intestine, while the liver will still play its role of producing it. The only difference is that bile will no longer be stored, and it will flow in an unregulated manner.

To some individuals, this won’t make much difference but to others, there will be some side effects when the level of bile is too low or too high. But this situation can be managed through medication and certain lifestyle changes. In other words, removing your gallbladder need not necessarily impact you, but it depends on your current lifestyle and habits.

So to ensure that you do not get affected by gallbladder surgery, ensure that you maintain a healthy diet, and a healthy life without smoking and drinking since this can only serve to exacerbate your current condition.

Is gallbladder surgery effective?

You may find yourself wondering whether a gallbladder removal surgery will solve all your digestion problems. You may ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Will I ever have another gallbladder attack?
  • Will my bloating and gas go away for good?
  • Will it finally stop the diarrhea?
  • Will the constipation come to an end?

Truth is, you’ll never really know how effective your gallbladder removal will turn out until you give it a try. How effective it will be solely depends on the individual. You may turn out to be better after the surgery or experience symptoms such as actual attacks in rare occasions, different kinds of pain and discomfort, and other new symptoms.

It all comes down to the reason that you wanted your gallbladder removed in the first place. And even though you can lead a normal life post-surgery, it is vital that you explore all options before putting yourself and your body at high risk.

While you may experience some side effects post-surgery, the overall impact of removing your gallbladder depends on the individual and whether you are genetically predisposed to certain health issues. Your gallbladder surgery could cause these health conditions to break out, which in turn will impact your overall health.

It also depends on your lifestyle and the diet you take on a regular basis. Smoking and drinking will only serve to impact your liver and bile production and this in turn will result in irregular bile production as well as an impact on your body’s natural functions. This is why it is vital that you consult your doctor to go over all the side effects and the impact your surgery may have on you, prior to undertaking the gallbladder surgery.

But if the surgery cannot be avoided any longer, then it is quite possible that you will experience gallbladder attacks. This is because gallstones can develop even in the bile ducts or the liver. The attacks mostly occur when the gallstones block a duct. Studies have shown that gallstones are mainly a product of what we eat.

That means even if you have your gallbladder removed but you are still practicing old eating habits, the chances of you developing gallstones are high. You may experience abdominal pain, even years after the surgery, due to a blockage in the duct caused by the stones.

Having your gallbladder removed is not a guarantee that all your digestion problems will be solved. Maybe the problems begun way back and they have nothing to do with the gallbladder - even if it was found to be damaged. Maybe your body has been having problems digesting fats even when your gallbladder was in perfect condition.

For this reason, it is important that enough tests and other diagnostic measures are done to find the root cause of your digestive problems. Stress and allergic reactions are some of the factors that may contribute to digestive problems. This is why it is important that you explore all the options and get all the tests done to determine the root cause for your problem before opting for gallbladder surgery.

More importantly, it is necessary that you request your doctor to run a full panel allergy test prior to the surgery since it can have an impact on your health and any treatment that your doctor would prescribe.

It is also possible that you're suffering from a totally different, undiagnosed disease. Sometimes your doctor may recommend a gallbladder removal because the ultrasound detected the presence of gallstones. This can be due to the impression that whenever gallstones are detected, they are considered to be the most obvious causes of gallbladder attacks.

However, in cases where your gallbladder is releasing bile below the normal level of 33% to 40%, the functionality of the gallbladder is considered to be low. This condition is known as biliary dyskinesia, and it can only be detected through the use of an HIDA scan.

The symptoms associated with this condition are always not treatable through cholecystectomy alone, due to a number of both known and unknown reasons. One possible reason is that the source of the problem could be the sphincter of Oddi, not the gallbladder.