You’ve probably heard this before. A patient with gallstones underwent gallbladder removal surgery only to experience the same gallstone pain 3 months later. Is it possible at all to have a gallbladder attack when there’s no more gallbladder to cause it in the first place? Well, yes and no.
It’s possible to have stones forming from bile again.
These stones can cause obstruction along the bile duct and the same pain that gallstones cause. This time, though, the pain and symptoms are technically not caused by an obstruction in the gallbladder or the cystic duct. Instead, the obstruction takes place in the common bile duct. This medical condition is called choledocholithiasis.
What causes pain and gallstone attacks after gallbladder removal?
The surgical procedure for removing the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. Prior to this, the patient will feel intense pain. This is due to the bile flow which forces gallstones through the narrow opening of the gallbladder. Since there is obstruction, this situation will build up pressure and add to the pain.
If you think that gallbladder removal will completely solve the problem, think again.
After the surgical removal of the gallbladder and the cystic duct, bile stones may still form in the liver. This is possible especially if the underlying causes of the previous gallstones were not addressed.
In short, these stones still have the potential of causing blockage even in the absence of a gallbladder.
This time, they may obstruct the common bile duct which will result in pain, jaundice, and infection.
It may not be gallstone that’s causing the pain, but in every practical sense, it’s the same.
Is gallbladder removal surgery necessary?
So, you see, removing the gallbladder does not totally prevent the recurrence of stone formation. However, there are health conditions that call for cholecystectomy. For instance, it is the standard treatment for patients diagnosed with severely diseased gallbladder. The same is true for patients with acute biliary cirrhosis and pancreatitis. The presence of gallstones increases the risk of organ failure, sepsis, and other life-threatening complications.
Still, it does not mean that surgery is the be-all and end-all for every gallstone case.
The cause why gallstones formed in the first place provides the key to the best form of treatment. It’s always best to seek second and third opinions before deciding on cholecystectomy. Most patients with silent gallstones do very well with lifestyle change and non-surgical alternatives.
What options are there other than gallbladder surgery?
It’s always good to have other options aside from gallbladder surgery. Some medical options, which are not as invasive as open surgery, are:
- Gallstone lithotripsy – also called extracorporeal shock wave treatment (ESWT). It uses shockwaves to split large gallstones. The patient can then pass the fragmented stones so much easier.
- Laparoscopic cholecystectomy – this is the minimally invasive version of open cholecystectomy. In this setup, the incisions are smaller than those in open surgery. The recovery time will also be so much shorter.
Alternative methods on how to remove gallbladder stones without operation include home remedies. We recommend the guidance of health practitioners for those who opt for these approaches.
- Avoidance of high-fat food – by reducing fat intake, you will reduce the likelihood of disturbing silent gallstones.
- Gallbladder cleansing – this often includes a blend of olive oil and fruit juices. It also involves fasting.
- Botanical remedies – herbal ingredients are incorporated into the diet. Their main purpose is to detoxify the liver which is responsible for bile production. Some popular herbs and vegetables used are milk thistle, artichoke, dandelion, and psyllium husk.
Whether you opt to go under the knife or lean toward less drastic alternatives, you have to fully understand the effects of either decision.
Gallbladder removal will immediately get rid of gallstones in the gallbladder.
However, there are conditions where stones are also formed or lodged outside the gallbladder and the cystic ducts. In most of these cases, the pain will most definitely recur.
Also, if you already have a history of gallstones, you have to modify your lifestyle. Reduce the risk factors that cause gallstones.
This may call for gradual weight reduction and change in diet.