Gallbladder Issues: A Quick Overview
You’ve likely heard people refer to “the gall” of someone as a way to describe a person who has a lot of nerve or brazenness! But did you know that this phrase originates from an organ in your body called the gallbladder?
WHAT IS THE GALLBLADDER?
The gallbladder, located under the liver, is a 4 inch pear-shaped organ that can cause a lot of hassle and discomfort when it’s not operating correctly. The role of the gallbladder is to store the bile produced by its larger neighbour, the liver. When this bile is needed to aid digestion, the gallbladder contracts and releases an adequate amount of its bile into the digestive tract. It is this bitter yellowish fluid that inspired our previously mentioned expression. According to The Free Dictionary: “The use of gall, which strictly speaking means the liver’s secretion, or bile, and its extension to bitterness of any kind dates from about a.d. 1000.”
WHAT DOES A GALLBLADDER LOOK LIKE ON ULTRASOUND?
Here is an image of a normal gallbladder visualised during an ultrasound. Any black in the image indicates fluid, which allows solid matter to stand out in contrast. On the left, you may be able to make out the speckled black and grey matter, which is the liver. Next to it, in the centre, is a black, pear-shaped object. This is the gallbladder.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON GALLBLADDER ISSUES?
So, what happens when the gallbladder isn’t functioning properly? There are various different issues that can hinder your gallbladder from doing its job:
- Gallstones: Most of these small, hardened deposits are formed by the cholesterol that exists in the bile, and in some cases, they are composed of calcium bilirubinate. Gallstones can cause acute cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder).
Here is an ultrasound image showing several gallstones in the gallbladder. Can you see the white circles inside the gallbladder?
- Bile Duct Infection: Infection may develop if the common bile duct is obstructed.
- Gallbladder Polyps (abnormal tissue growths)
- Porcelain Gallbladder: stiffness of the gallbladder walls caused by calcium deposits.
- Gallbladder Cancer: this is rare, but requires early treatment to prohibit spreading to other organs.
SYMPTOMS LINKED TO GALLBLADDER ISSUES
The following symptoms can sometimes suggest gallbladder issues. If you are experiencing any of the following, you will need to speak with your doctor. Your doctor can discuss the next steps, and may refer you for an Abdominal Ultrasound:
- Pain or discomfort that occurs in the mid to upper-right section of your abdomen.
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting.
- Chronic gallbladder malfunction may cause digestive problems, acid reflux, gas or diarrhea.
- If you are experiencing fever or chills, this could indicate an infection, which will need to be treated immediately.
- Jaundiced (yellow-looking) skin.
- Lighter-coloured stools or discoloured urine.
HOW DO I BOOK AN ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND?
In order to arrange any medical ultrasound, we first require a letter of referral from a GP registered with the Irish Medical Council. This can be sent via Healthlink or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Once we have received the referral, we will make contact to arrange the appointment.
If you would like more information on anything covered in this post, you can get in touch via email@example.com or send us a message on our Facebook page and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Our website theultrasoundsuite.ie also provides a wealth of information on our various policies and procedures.