Understanding the potential side effects of gall bladder removal can help you weigh the risks against the benefits of the procedure. While you may come out of the surgery with minimal to no side effects, there's a chance that you may be bothered by one or more chronic conditions.
Why Side Effects Happen
The gall bladder is essentially a sac at the end of the small intestine that holds excess bile, which is produced by the liver. The bile is then released into the intestine during digestion and helps break down food particles into waste. People with gall bladder problems have too much bile stored away. Gall bladder removal does not stop bile production all together, as bile is necessary for digestion.
Without the gall bladder, the bile produced by the liver will drip directly into the intestine. This drip of bile can still cause digestion pain and problems, particularly if the bile irritates the lining of the intestine.
Other problems are caused by excess carbon dioxide. During the surgery, the surgeon will inject carbon dioxide into your abdomen to expand the area so she has room to work. Sometimes, not all of the excess is removed after surgery, and it can move into other parts of the body.
Painful or Problematic Digestion
Because of the small intestine irritation, you may experience or continue to experience problems with your digestion system, even after gall bladder removal. Common digestive problems include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Excess gas
- Difficulty passing gas
- Abdominal cramps
The chronic diarrhea is perhaps one of the more common side effects of the surgery, as the liver will need to dump bile directly into the intestine. When the liver dumps an excess of bile--which is how the gall bladder would have had excessive bile in the first place--directly into the small intestine, instantaneous diarrhea could be the result.
Besides of pain in the areas of the stomach and the intestine, gall bladder removal could lead to chronic pain in the upper abdomen (usually on the right side, the general area of the liver and where the gall bladder used to be) and pain shooting up into the shoulders. This pain is due to carbon dioxide that may be left over from the procedure.
Infection and Pain in the Incisions
A side effect of any surgery is infection and pain in the incisions. If your incisions become red, swollen, itchy or painful, you may have an infection. Infections can lead to further complications, such as fevers and slow recovery times.
While other side effects are potentially longer-lasting, many gall bladder surgery patients report generally "feeling sick" for a few weeks after the surgery. This can refer to nausea, fatigue and cold-like symptoms. This may be due to the medications you will be taking after the surgery and not the surgery itself.
About 4 in 10 gall bladder removal patients experience at least some of these potential side effects for months or even years after the surgery. It is important, therefore, that you and your physician discuss the advantages and disadvantages of surgery versus other treatments to keep your gall bladder problems under control.