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Gallbladder Conditions

Better Ways to Treat Gallbladder Symptoms

This page is primarily about treatment for benign gallbladder diseases. For information about malignant gallbladder conditions, please see the page for gallbladder cancer.

The gallbladder is a sac that stores bile made in the liver. After you eat a meal, the gallbladder releases this bile into the top part of the small intestine to help you digest fats. Unfortunately, gallbladder problems are quite common. Usually related to gallstones, gallbladder diseases can happen to anyone but tend to affect people who are older than 40, overweight or female.

Common gallbladder conditions include:

  • Gallstones (cholelithiasis or cholecystolithiasis)
  • Cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder)
  • Abnormal gallbladder contractions (biliary dyskinesia)

The advanced general surgeons at the Digestive Health Institute have much experience with surgery to treat gallbladder conditions. Surgery is the only treatment that can cure a gallbladder disease. While gallbladder removal – cholecystectomy – is one of the most common general surgeries, Dr. Alexander Rosemurgy and Dr. Sharona Ross use minimally invasive methods that help patients avoid complications and experience faster recoveries. Our surgeons even offer epidural gallbladder surgery so that patients who want to can avoid general anesthesia.

Gallbladder Disease Symptoms

Gallstones form when bile develops into hard particles. These stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. If one of these stones blocks the major bile duct that comes out of the gallbladder, the result is acute cholecystitis or “gallbladder attack” – severe inflammation in and around this organ. Gallbladder attack requires immediate medical attention. Otherwise, the gallbladder could rupture, a life-threatening situation.

Symptoms of gallbladder attack include:

  • Pain on the upper-right side of the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Many patients do not even know they have a gallbladder disease until they have a gallbladder attack. However, other patients experience symptoms of gallbladder disease more gradually.

Gallbladder disease symptoms that may appear more gradually include:

  • Pain mostly the right side of the abdomen, which may radiate to the back
  • Abdominal pain after eating
  • Intolerance of fatty foods
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Bloating, gas, and indigestion

Medical Treatment for Gallbladder Disease

With some exceptions, treating gallbladder conditions with medicine has fallen out of favor. This is because surgery provides a permanent cure and today’s gallbladder surgery is very minimally invasive. When not used as emergency treatment, gallbladder removal, or cholecystectomy, does not usually require an overnight hospital stay. Because cholecystectomies are so commonly needed, surgeons have a lot of experience performing them. This also makes gallbladder surgery very safe.

In the cases where patients are unable to have surgery, some medical treatments for gallstones may provide symptom relief.

Medical treatments for gallstones include:

  • Oral medication. Ursodeoxycholic acid, a bile acid, can dissolve small (1.5 cm or less) gallstones made of cholesterol. This approach works for about 40 percent of patients with these stones.
  • Medicine given by infusion. Some stones can be dissolved by solvents such as methyl tert-butyl ether or monooctanoin. These need to be infused directly into the bile duct or gallbladder.
  • Shockwave therapy. Also known as lithotripsy, this procedure uses ultrasound to create shock waves that break apart stones. While it is not as commonly used to treat gallstones as it is kidney stones, it remains an option for patients who cannot have surgery.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). When a gallstone is blocking part of the bile duct is shares with the pancreas, sometimes an ERCP procedure can be used therapeutically. This minimally invasive approach performed with an endoscope removes the gallstone from the duct, thus ending the blockage.

Surgical Treatment for Gallbladder Disease

Surgery that removes the gallbladder is a permanent treatment for gallbladder conditions. Please see the Cholecystectomy page for information on the minimally invasive procedures offered at DHI to treat gallbladder disease.

If you are in need of treatment for a gallbladder condition, call DHI at (813) 615-7557 to make an appointment with a general surgeon or gastroenterologist.



At DHI, we know that after being diagnosed with cancer, patients want and often need to begin treatment quickly. So we make it a priority to offer appointments for cancer surgery consultations within 5 business days, and often earlier. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer, or have just found out they have cancer recurrence, qualify for this priority access. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion. We want to help you start your treatment as soon as possible.

If you have been diagnosed with a cancer of the digestive system, don’t wait.
Call the Digestive Health Institute at (813) 615-7440.

Learn more about our Surgical Cancer Care program.

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