The gallbladder is a tiny pear-shaped sac that is located below the liver in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It acts as a reservoir for bile, which is a digestive juice that the liver produces. When we consume fatty meals, the gallbladder contracts and releases bile for the digestion of fats. Bile is made up of cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin.
When the quantity of cholesterol or bilirubin in this digestive juice increases considerably, it crystallizes into hard stone-like deposits. These deposits are medically referred to as gallstones. These could form in the gallbladder or in the bile duct that connects the gallbladder to the small intestine. These can prevent the gallbladder from emptying and can also obstruct the common bile duct, hepatic ducts, or the cystic duct. As a result, the gallbladder could get inflamed, which in turn might lead to gallbladder attacks. While natural remedies might help in mild cases, surgical intervention might be required if the symptoms are severe.
The presence of gallstones can be detected with the help of blood tests, ultrasound, CT scan, or cholescintigraphy. If gallbladder attacks occur frequently, doctors generally recommend surgery for the removal of the entire gallbladder. This surgical procedure is medically referred to as cholecystectomy. The surgery can be an open surgery. It can also be performed laparoscopically. In an open surgery, the surgeon makes a large incision in order to remove the gallbladder.
In case of laparoscopic surgery, small incisions are made and a laparoscope with an attached miniature video camera is inserted. The surgeon makes the necessary cuts and removes the gallbladder while guided by the images on the video monitor. The recovery period is comparatively shorter in case of laparoscopic surgery. The patient is discharged from the hospital the next day itself and can fully recover in a month. In case of an open surgery, the patient might be hospitalized for three to five days. The risk of complications such as bleeding, injury to organs surrounding the gallbladder, leakage of bile into the abdominal cavity, etc., is higher in an open surgery.
Cost of the Surgery
The cost will depend on the type of procedure employed. The location of the hospital, the qualifications of the surgeon, and the complications of the case will also affect the cost of this surgery. The average cost of gallstones surgery may range anywhere from USD 10,000 to USD 15,000. The cost could also go higher if there are other complications. If the organs surrounding the gallbladder or the ducts get damaged or a lack of aftercare results in complications, the patient might end up spending more money post surgery.
Since the cost of the surgery is high, one can also opt for non-surgical alternatives. Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or Endoscopic Sphincterotomy are treatment options that don't involve the removal of the gallbladder. Oral dissolution therapy or contact dissolution therapy can also be used for dissolving gallstones.
Gallstones can give rise to excruciating pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. The pain could also spread to the back or below the right shoulder blade. Those who experience pain in these areas must seek medical assistance. Though gallbladder only serves as a reservoir of bile, and the body can cope with the removal of this organ, it would be best to try the non-surgical options first.