Gallbladder problems? Cape Fear Valley/Bladen County Hospital can fix it

By: Dr. Barry Williamson - General surgeon

Do you ever get abdominal pain after eating fried or fatty foods? Pain in the right side, up under your rib cage, maybe around toward your back? It starts about 30 minutes after your meal and lasts for a couple of hours and then slowly goes away? Ever wonder what that was? Ever wonder what could be done to make it go away for good?

According to St. Johns University, approximately 10 to 15 percent of the population, and up to 80 percent of the Native American population has gallstones. It’s not all bad news though. Approximately 80 percent of those with gallstones will go through their lives and never have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may present as pain under the right rib cage that possibly moves to your back, bloating or feeling full and there may be nausea and/or vomiting.

All of this starts about 30 minutes after a meal and usually lasts for a couple of hours. The symptoms are usually worse, the higher the fat content in the meal. The longer the symptoms go on, the more severe and the more frequent the pain will be felt.

Complications of having stones can be as simple as continued gallbladder “attacks,” or can escalate to pancreatitis and/or jaundice if a stone were to pass out of the gallbladder into the bile duct and block it. This is characterized by severe pain in the mid-upper abdomen with nausea and vomiting and usually jaundice (the patient appears yellow/orange).

There can also be circumstances where your gallbladder simply quits working and there are no stones present on ultrasound. This is referred to as Biliary dyskinesia or abnormal movement. These symptoms are the same as those previously mentioned. A specialized test called a HIDA scan measures the function of the gallbladder. If the function is abnormally low, then surgery can help you to feel better.

Surgery for gallbladder disease can usually be performed laparoscopically. This involves three or four small abdominal incisions of around an inch or less in size, through which your gallbladder can typically be removed safely. This surgery is typically done in an outpatient setting, not requiring an overnight stay in the hospital. Occasionally, less than 5 percent of the time, we are required to make a larger incision. This would be done for your safety, to remove the gallbladder, without causing damage to any of the surrounding structures. When this occurs, it usually entails a two- or three-day stay in the hospital.

This surgery is performed regularly and can be done safely right here at Bladen County Hospital by myself and Dr. William Beutel. Both of us have many years of experience doing laparoscopic surgery and have safely performed thousands of these procedures. See your Primary Care provider about getting a referral if you are suffering these symptoms. Recovery is usually very simple and most patients do very well after surgery. There are very few, if any, complications to having your gallbladder removed.

If you are having symptoms, check with your Primary Care Provider to get evaluated. It’s worth it to feel better.

Dr. Barry Williamson is a general surgeon at Bladen County Hospital.

Dr. Barry Williamson

General surgeon