The organ you can live without
Posted on 19 February 2013
The gallbladder is not something to which we pay much attention – until it goes wrong, that is!
I have been suffering pain, discomfort and nausea and now I’ve been told I have to have my gallbladder removed. What is it and why can I live without it?
Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped, sac-like organ just below your liver on the right hand side. Its job is to collect and store bile, releasing it into the small intestine to help us break down the foods, especially fatty foods. Its welfare is not something we think about – until it goes wrong – and even then we might not know it. It is estimated that 90% of people can develop gallstones and never develop symptoms. However, if you suffer repeated symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting and bloating, your gallbladder will need removal by surgery. And unlike most organs, we can live without it, as the normal flow of bile to the small intestine can take place without it.
What can I expect from the operation?
Take heart. This is commonplace procedure and you’ll only need an overnight stay in hospital. These days doctors remove the gallbladder using a laparoscope, which is a tiny camera and light which allows them to see inside your abdomen. It will take four small incisions – near the belly button, just under the sternal notch (the visible dip at the base of your throat between the collar bones) and two below the ribs – to snip the gallbladder free and remove it from the body. You will only need between one and three stitches at each incision.
You can expect some discomfort initially, but it’s not painful and you shouldn’t show any symptoms within 10 days. And you won’t need to change your diet, although a healthy balanced diet and exercise is still the best way to protect your health!