What Can Go Wrong With Your Gallbladder When You Have Gallstones?


You probably do not give your gallbladder much thought on a daily basis.

Unless it is causing you pain of course.

If you are experiencing gallbladder pain, or worse, are suffering from a gallbladder attack, you may need to see a gallbladder specialist in Maryland to help examine the source of your pain.

That being said, the most common complication associated with gallbladder pain is cholelithiasis, otherwise known as gallstones.

However, just because you know the term and which organ it affects in your body, does not necessarily mean you fully understand the effect gallstones have on your gallbladder.

Today we will look at the effects the most common gallstone complications can have on your gallbladder and body.  This way if you or someone you love are ever diagnosed with gallstones, you can have a better understanding of what may be happening inside that tiny organ people often forget they even have.


Common Problems Associated with Gallstones

Your gallbladder is a tiny sac-like organ tucked right underneath your liver.  Working together with your liver, your gallbladder helps digest and process the foods you consume.

Here is a quick overview of some of the things your gallbladder does:

  • Storage of bile, a fluid produced by your liver
  • Release of bile during the digestive process into the small intestine
  • Utilization of bile to break down fat in foods you eat for absorption or release as waste
  • Concentration of bile produced by the liver so it can become more powerful in small amounts

When your gallbladder’s bile becomes too concentrated, it tends to harden into small crystal like stones, called gallstones.  And, since your gallbladder is so tiny and has many small ducts for bile to travel through, complications from gallstones easily arise.  Let’s look at what some of those complications are.


Common Bile Duct Stones

Sometimes gallstones find their way to the common bile duct, the small pathway bile takes on its way to the small intestine for the digestion of food.

Most of the time, these gallstones originate in the gallbladder and pass into the bile duct.  However, sometimes gallstones form in the bile duct itself.  These types are very rare and are more likely to cause an infection than gallstones that have traveled to the bile duct.

Cholesterol, black pigment, and brown pigment gallstones are the types of stones your gallbladder specialist may find when examining you.  Brown pigment gallstones tend to develop in the common bile duct more so than cholesterol or black pigment stones.  They typically form because of an infection or bile stasis.

Since your common bile duct tubes are extremely small, a gallstone that is stuck in the common bile duct causes a lot of pain.  In addition, the blockage can cause a backup of bile in the gallbladder and eventually the liver causing jaundice and infection.


Abscess of the Gallbladder

Though only a small percentage of people with gallstones will develop an abscess, the risk still exists.

Called empyema, an abscess of the gallbladder is the development of pus, blood cells, bacteria, and dead tissue inside of the gallbladder.  This causes severe abdominal pain and can become life threatening if not treated right away by your Maryland gallbladder specialist.


Gallstone Ileus

Another rare complication resulting from gallstones is a gallstone ileus.  This is when a compacted gallstone travels from the gallbladder and into the small intestine causing a blockage.  However, the gallstone has the possibility of travelling and becoming lodged anywhere in the GI tract.

This serious and sometimes fatal condition is typically found in those over the age of 65.  Treatment involves close monitoring by your gallbladder specialist and usually requires surgery to remove the gallstone.


Perforated Gallbladder

If you refuse to seek treatment from your Maryland gallbladder specialist, the gallstones can lead to a perforated, or punctured, gallbladder.  If not detected quickly, a serious infection can form and easily spread throughout the abdominal cavity.

Several symptoms may alert you that you are suffering from a perforated gallbladder.  These include nausea and vomiting, a sharp pain in the upper right side of your abdomen, extreme jaundice, and a fever.

Because these symptoms are similar to many other gallstone complications, if you experience any of them, you should seek the help of a gallbladder specialist.

There are several ways your gallbladder physician can detect a perforated gallbladder:

  • Ultrasound
  • Color flow Doppler ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Biliary scintigraphy
  • Blood tests for infection and inflammation

The treatment for a perforated gallbladder is usually a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, or the complete removal of the gallbladder.  It is crucial your gallbladder surgeon perform this surgery before your gallbladder ruptures and spreads a serious infection throughout your body.


Gallbladder Polyps

Growths that develop in your gallbladder are called polyps.  They are typically benign and small ones do not usually require removal because they pose very little risk to your gallbladder.  However, large ones will need surgical removal by your gallbladder surgeon so that they do not turn cancerous or produce any other serious issues in your gallbladder.


Biliary Colic

If a gallstone blocks the cystic duct (the duct connecting the gallbladder to the common bile duct) your gallbladder will begin to contract against the blockage causing spasmic pain.  Unfortunately, these biliary colic spasmic episodes can last upwards of an hour or two.  However, they may only affect you every couple of years.


Inflamed Gallbladder

Many things such as excessive alcohol use, infection, or even tumors cause inflammation of the gallbladder.  However, the most common cause is gallstones.

When you have many large gallstones, your gallbladder reacts by becoming swollen and painful from the resulting inflammation.  This inflammation can cause severe pain that can last for hours or even a few days.  More so, intestinal bacteria can infect your gallbladder.  The resulting infection can be serious and should be treated right away.


Dysfunctional Gallbladder

If you suffer from chronic bouts of gallstones, your gallbladder may become rigid and scarred over time because of the constant inflammation the gallstones subject your gallbladder to, especially after heavy meals.

Because of the scarring and hardening of the gallbladder, it can no longer contract as it should to release bile into the small intestine during the digestive process.  As a result, you experience regular pain and poor digestion.

In the end, just knowing what gallstones are is not enough.  If you or someone you love are diagnosed with gallstones, it is important to understand the underlying effects this diagnosis will have on your overall health.

If you are experiencing any type of gallbladder pain, consider contacting Maryland’s most prominent gallbladder specialist, Dr. Fraiman.  Voted “America’s Top Surgeon” and boasting 20 years of experience in the field, Dr. Fraiman and his multidisciplinary team can help treat any complications you have from gallstones.  Dr. Fraiman is dedicated to giving his patients an individualized treatment plan so that you can regain your quality of life in the quickest way possible.