Gall Bladder Surgery

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. I've just had an ultrasound of my gall bladder. Just what are the implications should it need to be removed? Also, is it neccessary to remove it? I've had one bad time with pain dead center in my chest going straight through to my back. It lasted a couple of hours and I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. Prior to that, I've only experienced short episodes of pain, causing mainly shortness of breath.

A. The gall bladder is a small pouch which helps concentrate bile salts, used to digest fats. If the gall bladder becomes inflamed or has small stones which are "stuck" in the opening of the gall bladder, then you will experience an excruciating type of pain, as you did. However, the "small pains" are also important since they may be warning pains. If your gall bladder is thickened or has many gall stones on the ultrasound, you may be advised to have it removed.

The best way to remove the gall bladder, with minimal recovery time, is through a laprascope. Women are at slightly higher risk of gall bladder problems, especially as we get older. This condition will likely not go away by itself and the next attack may well cause even more pain and, though rare, could require emergency surgery. We can do quite well without the gall bladder.

One other issue is to have very little fat in your diet, since this will trigger "spasm" of the gall bladder and more pain if there is a stone blocking the outlet. A low-fat diet is great for overall health but especially if you already have gall bladder problems.