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Gallbladder Removal Side Effects

Gallbladder Removal Side Effects
Gallbladder surgery is a safe and commonly performed surgery. It involves the removal of the gallbladder from the body, so as to prevent further complications. However, sometimes, the absence of a gallbladder can cause diarrhea and other unwanted problems. The article provides information about the different gallbladder removal side effects.
Priya Johnson
Last Updated: Jan 25, 2018
The liver produces bile in order to digest fats from the food ingested. The bile produced by the liver is held in a small, pear-shaped, sac-like structure called the gallbladder. This gallbladder is attached to the underside of the liver and is situated at the right side of the abdomen. Bile comprises bile salts, cholesterol and waste products. When these substances get out of balance and failure to empty the gallbladder, along with crystallization of extra cholesterol in the bile, results in gallstones formation.

These gallstones cause trouble mostly after a fatty meal, making the person feel sick and feverish. It also spearheads searing pain in the upper, right side of the abdomen. Gallstones affect about 15% of the population, mostly aged 50 and above. Moreover, a large number of people also suffer from other gallbladder problems, such as cancer of the gallbladder, gallbladder diseases, etc.

Although the gallbladder is an important organ of the body, it is not a vital one, and the body can still function well in its absence. Removing the gallbladder from the body surgically, is the only way to get rid of the unbearable pain, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea, associated with the problematic gallbladder. It relieves a person from the severe pain attacks and discomfort associated with the same. There are two kinds of gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy; open surgery and laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Side Effects of Gallbladder Removal

The function of the gallbladder is to store bile and then release it into the small intestine, as and when required for digestion. Removal of the gallbladder does away with the storage facility, thus, the liver keeps producing bile, which keeps dripping into the small intestine. However, this dripping bile can cause certain digestion problems, especially if the meal is not well-balanced and comprises more fats than fiber. High-fat foods put more load on the liver, and can cause damage to it in the long run.

Right after surgery...

Nausea, Vomiting and Fatigue
The anesthesia given before the surgery, may spearhead side effects like nausea. To avoid this side effect, patients are given clear liquids the first day after surgery. Patients may also feel drained out and tired after the surgery.

During the surgery, the surgeon inserts carbon dioxide gas into the abdominal cavity, so that he can see the organs better. Some of this gas remains in the body, thereby causing bloating and uneasiness.

During the first few days after the surgery, patients will face significant amounts of discomfort and abdominal pain. This is because the organs have been shifted internally during the surgery to remove the gallbladder. The CO2 gas is also responsible for the pain felt in the right shoulder and right side of the abdomen. However, this pain subsides within a week or so. If an open surgery was carried out, the wound will take few weeks to heal. Laughing, coughing, sneezing, etc. put pressure on the stitches and become painful. For laparoscopy, soreness will be felt around the entry points, which should alleviate in a couple of days. Painkillers are prescribed to reduce the pain, however, some painkillers again have associated side effects.

Diarrhea is another common side effect many people face post-gallbladder surgery. The stool may be loose and watery, immediately after surgery, however, this should clear by the next day.

Some people may face constipation right after surgery, which can be alleviated by consuming more fiber in the diet.

Because the body has undergone a gallbladder surgery, it needs time to streamline the digestion process, in the absence of the gallbladder. To help the body cope, we need to consume low-fat and non-spicy foods for a few weeks after the surgery. The body also cannot digest high fiber and dairy products well. So this should be avoided as well. Instead of 3 large meals, eat 6 small frequent meals, which will help adequate digestion.

In the long run...

Although almost 60% people don't face any serious symptoms post surgery, some are not so fortunate. They face various side effects after gallbladder removal, which are as follows.

In most cases, diarrhea clears away within a few weeks time. However, some people seem to face diarrhea even in the long run. Having to run to the washroom right after meals, especially high-fat meals is the common complaint. Since the liver has no place to store the bile, it keeps releasing bile into the small intestine. Sometimes the small intestine gets overwhelmed by the amount of bile produced, and fails to reabsorb it. These bile salts then enter the large intestine and act as laxatives, thereby resulting in diarrhea.

Diarrhea can also take place due to lack of sufficient amounts of bile in the small intestine, to digest the high-fat meal consumed. Why chronic diarrhea affects some people is not known. The person gets stuck with chronic diarrhea and is restricted to eating only a healthy meal. This chronic diarrhea may go on for months or even years. Medicines like Prevalite, Questran, Colestid, etc. are prescribed to treat diarrhea caused due to bile. Sadly, although this problem can be controlled, it cannot be cured.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Even after gallbladder removal, the liver continues to produce bile in order to digest the fats. However, due to the absence of the gallbladder, which earlier stored bile, the bile released from the liver has no storage place to go to. So the bile is readily dumped into the intestine and digestion takes place. However, even when the person hasn't eaten anything, bile will continue to flow into the intestines and irritate it. This causes the condition, irritable bowel syndrome. However, this fact is debatable, and still awaits scientific approval.

Phantom Pain
Some people may face minor pain attacks now and then in the long run. However, most people have said this pain is nothing like the pain attacks before the surgery. Some may even face mild cramping.

We must understand that not everybody faces side effects of gallbladder removal. Some experience a smooth laparoscopy or open surgery with minimal side effects. Some don't even have to switch to a low-fat diet. However, some on the other hand, face severe diarrhea problems and have to be extra cautious about what they eat. Thus, the side effects vary from one individual to another.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.