What is a gallstones?
The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped sac that can be found under your liver. The gallbladder stores bile, which is a fluid produced by the liver that digests fats. When the gallbladder is diseased, stones are precipitated in the viscous bile and gradually increase in size. These “stones”, consisting of a mixture of bile salts, cholesterol, and calcium, can be as small as grains of sand or as big as a golf ball.
Are you at risk of developing gallstones?
- Being overweight or obese
- Above 40 years old
- Diets high in fat and cholesterol and low in fibre
- A family history of gallstones
- Taking cholesterol-lowering medication which may increase the amount of cholesterol secreted into the bile
What are the signs and symptoms of gallstones?
- Intense abdominal pain
- Back pain or pain in your right shoulder
- Stomach discomfort
- Vomiting or nausea
- Other issues with the digestive system, including indigestion, heartburn, and gas
How are gallstones diagnosed?
Abdominal ultrasound is commonly used to detect gallstones and contents in the gallbladder and bile duct.
How are gallstones removed?
We specialise in gallstone surgery and have extensive experience with good results. For gallstone patient who experience pain and other symptoms, we may be recommend the following ways to remove the gallbladder:
- Standard 3 or 4 -incision laparoscopic surgery. One incision in the umbilicus is 1.0cm and the others 0.5cm. The procedure is known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
- SILS/Single Incision Laparoscopic Surgery. A single 2cm incision in the umbilicus to remove the gallbladder.
- Robotic Surgery where the state-of-the-art DaVinci surgical system is used. With this method, the surgeon operates in a 3-D environment with 10x magnification using computer-aided instruments that eliminates tremors.
- N.O.T.E.S/Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery. This approach uses natural orifices like the mouth, vagina, or rectum to perform the operation.
- Open surgery where the gallbladder is removed through a 15cm incision. This is the last resort.
Why choose Centre for Screening and Surgery?
The Centre for Screening and Surgery (CSS) specialises in the screening and detection of cancer in its early stages. In the case of gallstones, we use a high-resolution ultrasound machine (which can also be used to diagnose thyroid nodules, hernias, breast, liver and lumps & bumps on the skin) to scan gallbladder content. Results of the ultrasound scan will be available on the same day of the scan.
CSS is led by Dr Kum Cheng Kiong, a pioneer in Asia for Minimally Invasive Surgery (Laparoscopic Surgery or Keyhole Surgery) with more than 30 years of experience; he has performed hundreds of gallbladder operations using minimally invasive procedures and will customise the best treatment for the individual depending on his/her condition.
Yes, if the stones cause symptoms. Symptoms include feeling pain when eating, ‘indigestion’, fever and jaundice (yellow eyes and skin). Because stones form when the gallbladder is not functioning well, the gallbladder is removed together with the stones.
Removing the gallbladder does not lead to any serious consequence. Even without a gallbladder, it’s possible to have a completely normal life. Without the gallbladder, bile is stored in the bile ducts. Removing the gallbladder does not interfere with the production of bile that occurs in the liver.
Common complications include:
- Acute infection of the gallbladder leading to severe upper abdominal pain and fever (acute cholecystitis)
- Pus formation in the gallbladder (empyema) leading to high fever and sepsis, a life-threatening infection
- Jaundice when the stones block the bile duct that connects the liver to the small intestine leading to yellow eyes and skin. This may damage the liver.