How to Know If You Need Gallbladder Surgery

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Your gallbladder is a small reservoir in your digestive system that stores bile from the liver to help you digest fat. When gallbladder disease occurs or if the gallbladder is filled with stones or is dysfunctional, you may need to have it removed surgically. Your doctor will examine you and order specific tests to diagnose the problem and determine if surgical removal is appropriate.

Doctor examining abdomen
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Step 1

Keep a diary of all your digestive problems and any pain you are experiencing, and share this information with your doctor. To determine if you have gallbladder problems and if surgery is required, your doctor will examine you and take a medical history of your symptoms.

Doctor taking patient history
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Step 2

Let your doctor know if you’ve experienced any sudden weight loss. Your doctor will also consider if you take estrogen, have given birth to children, have diabetes, are of Native American or Mexican American heritage or are older than 40. These are factors that put you at higher risk for gallbladder disease.

Let your doctor know if you’ve experienced any sudden weight loss
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Step 3

Tell your doctor if you’ve been feeling any pain in your upper right abdomen, how often it occurs and how long it lasts. Pain that radiates around your back and lasts 30 minutes or longer is an indication that the gallbladder could be diseased or dysfunctional.

Tell your doctor if you’ve been feeling any pain in your upper right abdomen
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Step 4

Tell your doctor if you experience diarrhea, gas, nausea, vomiting or belching or if you have had any of these symptoms accompanied by fever and chills. If these symptoms are continual, your doctor will want to run a test to determine whether the gallbladder should come out.

Tell your doctor if you experience diarrhea, gas, nausea, vomiting or belching
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Step 5

Ask about other tests to determine the need for surgery. If your doctor suspects a diseased or dysfunctional gallbladder, he may order one or more of the following tests: blood test, ultrasound, X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), hydroxy-iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) test (measures gallbladder function) or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP; allows gallbladder, liver and pancreas to be seen on X-ray). Positive results on any of these tests may indicate that your gallbladder should be removed.

CT scan
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