Side Effects of Gallbladder Removal
The gallbladder is a nonessential organ located in your abdominal cavity. Because in some people it creates painful gallstones, gallbladder removal is not uncommon. Another reason to remove the gallbladder is to lower the risk of gallbladder cancer in susceptible individuals. But while the benefits of removing the gallbladder outweigh the risks for most people, there can still be complications afterwards.
What might happen?
The most common problem people have after getting their gallbladders out is diarrhea, which can last for years. Studies are wildly variable when it comes to determining how many people are affected-some say only a few out of a hundred and others say up to a third.
The reason it happens, experts say, may be because patients experience an increase in bile in the large intestine. This bile acts as a laxative. To treat it, you may have to take an anti-diarrheal medication or a medication that absorbs or counteracts excess bile. You might also be able to control the diarrhea with diet. Try eliminating caffeine (a known laxative), dairy, very greasy foods, and very sweet foods.
Another possible complication of gallbladder surgery is injury to the bile duct. This can cause bile to leak into the body, or it can cause bile duct strictures, in which the ducts narrow and cause bile to spill into the liver. Anywhere from one out of 100 to one out of 1,000 gallbladder surgeries will result in bile duct strictures. Treatment for this condition can be as simple as a quick bile-duct repair or as complex as removal of part of the liver if it's been damaged.
One possible complication that occurs in about six percent of gallbladder surgeries is that the doctor may miss some gallstones. These can remain in the in the abdomen and occasionally cause blockages, fissures, or abscesses, requiring additional surgery
Finally, having your gallbladder removed may put you at slightly higher risk of colon cancer down the road. A team from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed the rates of colorectal cancer among people who'd had their gallbladders removed and found the incidence of colon cancer to be modestly higher than in those who hadn't had their gallbladders out. The rates of rectal cancer were no different between the two groups. Again, the likely culprit in the higher cancer risk is an increase in bile.
National Institutes of Health, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
University of Maryland, www.umm.edu
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