What Is the Function of My Gallbladder?

Feb 15, 2023
What Is the Function of My Gallbladder?
Your gallbladder is a tiny pouch under your liver that stores bile. Bile helps digestion, but you don’t need a gallbladder to live a healthy life. Gallbladder removal rarely causes health or digestion issues and is a common surgical intervention.

The gallbladder is an organ on the right side of your body, under the liver. When your liver makes bile, it has to be stored somewhere between meals before it’s transported to your liver. Your gallbladder is the storage area. But having the gallbladder removed doesn’t normally lead to any alteration of the digestive functions.

Every year, almost 300,000 Americans get gallbladder surgery. The group of prominent board-certified surgeons at Lenox Hill Surgeons, LLP, in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, perform gallbladder removal surgery to end gallbladder pain. Since you can survive without a gallbladder if you have gallstones or other problems, having this operation can significantly enhance your quality of life.

What happens when the gallbladder stops working?

The gallbladder is a small pocket located under the liver. It stores bile before it flows into the intestine during digestion. Secreted by the liver, bile is a liquid that enables the digestion of fats. It contains cholesterol, bile salts, and substances the liver eliminates, including certain drugs. 

Bile is necessary for your body to break down fats. You can better absorb nutrients with the help of bile. Bile from the liver and gallbladder is discharged into the intestines when you eat fatty foods. 

What are gallstones?

Sometimes cholesterol from bile forms crystals in the gallbladder: these are gallstones. They can be as small as a grain of sand, or a gallstone can grow as big as a robin’s egg. 

Gallstones are little, hard "pebbles" that usually cause the bile duct or tube to get blocked, which leads to a build-up of bile in the gallbladder. This causes gallbladder attacks. The pain during an attack is usually caused by the obstruction in the bile duct. The episode usually ends when the gallstones move, and bile can flow out.

Gallstones can develop without causing a gallbladder attack. As long as the stones don’t obstruct the flow of bile, you may never experience any pain or indication of a problem. 

What causes gallstones?

Gallstones have many risk factors, such as:

  • Hereditary factors
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Excess estrogen
  • Gender
  • Medication
  • Fasting
  • Rapid weight loss

Older women are more often affected, especially those who have had multiple pregnancies. Female hormones increase cholesterol concentration in the bile, which increases the risk of a stone. Hormonal contraceptives and menopausal treatments also increase the risk of gallbladder attacks.

Symptoms of gallstones

Gallbladder attacks are a common health problem, especially among women. Repeated gallbladder attacks can require surgical intervention. Some symptoms of gallstones are: 

  • Mild to severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain that radiates to your back or right shoulder

Some abdominal or back pain can be so intense that it causes nausea or vomiting. These digestive pains usually occur after meals, especially hearty meals rich in fats, which cause bile production. The large influx of bile into the gallbladder can make it tense and cause it to become hypersensitive.

Sometimes the stones in the gallbladder leak out and migrate into the main bile duct. Then it prevents the normal flow of bile. 

As a result, the bile swells the liver and then drains into the blood, where it’s eliminated in the urine. These acute or chronic infections can themselves be complicated by life-threatening septic shock.

Gallbladder surgery

Surgery to remove the gallbladder is typically minimally invasive. We use the cutting-edge da Vinci® robot-assisted surgical system for most gallbladder operations or a similar minimally invasive technique (laparoscopic surgery). 

During robotic surgery, our highly-skilled surgeons operate robotic arms to make either a few very small incisions in your stomach or one at your belly button. Surgeons can see a detailed view of your gallbladder and the tissues surrounding it with a tiny 3D camera inserted into an incision. 

Gallbladder surgery at Lenox Hill Surgeons, LLP, lessens recuperation time, pain, operative bleeding, and the danger of infection. We provide each patient with specialized attention and describe your surgical alternatives, so you know the best treatment options to meet your needs.

Call Lenox Hill Surgeons, LLP, in Manhattan's Lenox Hill neighborhood, or visit the online booking page to learn more. 

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