Porcelain gallbladder is a rare condition, in which the wall of the gallbladder gets encrusted. It is an uncommon manifestation of chronic cholecystitis, that is characterized by calcification of the gallbladder wall. This condition is believed to be caused due to excessive gallstones. However, research is still being carried out to find the exact cause.
What is Porcelain Gallbladder?
Gallbladder is a sac-like structure, that is situated underneath the liver, just below the rib cage, and is an important part of the digestive system. It is responsible for storing and concentrating bile, which helps us break down fatty foods.
In porcelain gallbladder, the gallbladder wall becomes hard and brittle. Because of the brittle nature and bluish white texture, it resembles porcelain ceramic, hence the name. This condition generally arises due to chronic inflammation of the organ. Excess calcification of this wall is also termed as calcified gallbladder or calcifying cholecystitis.
Process of Calcification
Gallbladder stores bile, an acid that is essential for the breakdown of foods, and thus helps in the process of digestion. Bile is synthesized in the liver, and then carried to the gallbladder through the cystic duct. This bile is then passed to the small intestine, through the common bile duct, in the right amount that is needed to break the fats.
When bile fails to break all the fats successfully, the extra cholesterol crystallizes into small gallstones, which can lodge in the bile ducts, and limit the fluid flow. Excessive formation of gallstones can lead to blockage of the duct, causing infection and inflammation of the gallbladder.
If this condition persists for long, it results in hardening and thickening of the wall, thus resulting in the hardening of the gallbladder. This condition is quite severe, and may need surgical removal of the entire organ. Almost 90% of such cases are associated with gallstones.
Patients with porcelain gallbladder are often asymptomatic, and the condition is detected by plain abdominal radio graphs, CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound being conducted for other reasons. However, in some cases, symptoms such as abdominal pain (that increases after eating), vomiting, and jaundice may be experienced.
It becomes very difficult to detect calcified gallbladder in the initial stages, as it has no early symptoms. Individuals with this condition are at higher risk of developing gallbladder carcinoma, which has a poor prognosis, and can be a serious condition. Surgery (open or laparoscopic) is often recommended because of this risk.
Research is still being carried out to find ways to treat this condition at more developed stages. Although studies have suggested a direct link between chronic cholecystitis and gallbladder carcinoma, the association is uncertain.
Porcelain gallbladder can occur in men as well as women. However, women are five times more prone to it, than men. The good news is that it is an uncommon condition, and the overall incidence in general population is not even a percent.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.