Okay, I could really use some advice from somebody who knows about gallstones and gall bladder surgery FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. Or if someone here happens to be a doctor. I really need an informed opinion.
Back story: I was just diagnosed with gallstones two weeks ago, but I have been suffering from very painful gall bladder attacks for over 2 ½ years. I know this for a fact because I wrote about my very first ambulance ride in my journal back in September 2006, during which I was experiencing the exact same symptoms that led to my diagnosis. Since then I have gone to the ER on several occasions to get a shot of Dilautid or whatever for the pain. The frequency of attacks, up until recently, has been once every 2 - 4 months. In this past month alone, I have had THREE attacks, so it appears they are increasing in frequency.
Present scenario: My mom just passed away the other day, so now my aunt and uncle are helping me get things in order. As soon as my aunt found out I have gallstones, she started badgering me with her “informed” opinions. She works as a physical therapist for Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, so naturally she has a better understanding of certain things. The problem is, she seems to think she knows a lot about the medical field - a lot more than she should, given her degree of training. More than the doctor who diagnosed me, anyway.
How so? Well, she seems to think that at 28 years old I am too young to have my gallbladder removed, that the gallbladder serves an important function, and that without it things will be more difficult for me than they are now. I have been researching gallstones online for the past two weeks (and I mean a lot of research, on several different websites) and what she said is completely contradictory to everything I have read so far:
1. I am NOT too young, as there have been teens on these forums who have had their gall bladders removed safely and successfully, 2. the gall bladder is NOT that important. It merely stores the extra bile, and 3. I have a 42-year-old friend who just had hers removed a few months ago, and she's eating what she wants (most of the time) and living a completely normal life.
So... please tell me that my aunt does NOT know more than all of these medical websites (especially WebMD and Mayo Clinic) and countless gallstone sufferers on forums such as these. I told her what the ER doc told me, that I would need to have my gall bladder removed, but she says her friend, who is merely a dietician, says that as long as I avoid fatty foods and all this other junk, I will be fine. So… a physical therapist and a dietician know MORE about gallstones than an actual medical doctor working in a hospital emergency room? Yeah, right.
So all I have to do is cut most of the fat from my diet and I’ll be just fine? My gallstones will magically stop causing me pain for the rest of my life? Whereas if I opt for surgery, I’ll be worse off than I was WITH the agonizing bouts of pain and I’ll never be able to live a normal, happy life without my precious gallbladder?
Nearly every website I have read on the subject endorses surgery over other treatments, and says clearly that untreated gallstones can lead to serious complications and even death. A low-fat diet does not generally count as treatment, but rather a “preventative measure,” correct? Please help set me straight on this whole issue.
I totally agree with sundaemundy!!! When it comes to having any ailment one is never too young. I understand your aunt might be concerned..but look at the children who are diagnosed with cancer at such young ages...my son was. So basically if your doctor suggest the best thing is gallbladder removal then have it done. Had mine removed this March 31st...I am just fine.
Traditionally speaking, yes, your aunt is correct in saying that you are too young to get your GB out. But that's because you're fairly young to be having problems with it (as was I at 29), or so previous prevalent thinking said. Talking to my surgeon, he said he's seen a drop in the average age of people getting their GB out. It used to be that the issue affected those middle aged and older, but no longer. Modern diets are a horrible thing.
Here's the deal: if you have symptomatic stones you need to get the GB out. Leaving it in can lead to all sorts of troubles, including pancreatitis, which can be deadly, so you are correct in your assertions.
Back to your aunt: depending on who you talk to she's either very correct in what she's saying regarding it serving an important function, or very incorrect. Some people claim that the GB does far more than is claimed, that it's responsible for food tolerances, and God only knows what else. One website (trying to sell some concoction) even says the following: (Their statements are starred (*), mine are arrowed (-->))
* Gallbladder surgery will not remove stones from liver (intrahepatic bile ducts), so it will not solve all the problems associated with intrahepatic stones.
--> (This is STRICTLY true: Gallbladder removal, by definition, does not remove hepatic stones. But most people don't HAVE stones inside the ducts, particularly the liver, and if they're there most surgeons will remove the stones during the surgery. I forget the particular name of the procedure, but when you have your GB out you'll sign for this in addition to the GB removal.)
* There is a huge probability that you will still suffer attacks, even after your gallbladder is removed.
--> ("huge" probability = 5% to 40%, depending on who you talk to. Most studies place it under 20%, and for most of those the attacks aren't usually permanent (99.5% of cases). This also has a LOT to do with your diet.)
* High chances of developing chronic diarrhea after eating. It is estimated that at least 15-20% of people without gallbladder endup with chronic diarrhea or with IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome). Many experience "dumping syndrome" which means diarrhea immediately after eating a meal.
--> (This is plain false. Some people do experience diarrhea after the surgery, but the VAST majority (90%+) have it resolved within the first month. Also, the definition of "Dumping Syndrome" here is totally off. See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dumping-syndrome/DS00715/DSECTION=symptoms)
* Slightly higher chances of colon cancer.
--> (This has been studied and proven wrong.)
* Higher chances of developing heart related illness as the liver feeds the heart.
--> (This is wrong in more ways than a medical drama.)
* Higher chances of developing cholesterol concerns.
--> (Iffy, but could be true. No conclusive evidence.)
* Higher chances of developing other chronic illness that are associated with poor liver function such as FMS, CFS, Cancer, Allergies, Depression, MS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's.
--> (We've hit the jackpot of lies, folks!)
* If you do not have a gallbladder, the liver must work twice as hard and can thus accumulate twice as many stones. Liver cleansing is highly recommended to help support individuals without gallbladders.
--> (This is only partially correct. The liver only has to work as hard as the diet you have. Liver cleansing... hey, I'll never turn down a good cleansing regimen.)
(Source sans commentary at http://www.oasisadvancedwellness.com/learning/living-without-gallbladder.html)
Back to actual medicine. Anatomy 101: Your GB it's basically just a sack that holds and concentrates bile. (It also reabsorbs cholesterol, something GBs gone bad don't do well, hence the possible cholesterol issue.) When the stomach detects food, particularly fatty food, a hormone (CCK) is released which tells the GB to squeeze so all that bile is released. Keeping a low-fat diet means that the small trickle from your liver will be more than enough to handle what you eat.
For the record, evolutinairly speaking, the gallbladder was needed when we were still hunting our food: find a big, juicy animal (Mmm... wilderbeast...), kill it, and start gorging on its deliciously charred flesh. (Evidence now suggests we never were the raw-meat eating types, at least not when it came to land animals. We started cooking around the time we developed into Homo Erectus. Fish on the other hand... but we didn't even start eating those until the development into Homo Sapien; it's what gave us an advantage of the Neanderthal man.) However, now that we're basically gatherers (with our fields being the supermarkets) our diets have changed so much that we don't really need the GB anymore. Oh sure, it's nice to have when you're having 20 fried chicken wings with a barrel of bleu cheese dressing, but otherwise it's really not needed.
The fact is that you don't need your GB, and if you're feeling pain now then your aunt is wrong, and things will PROBABLY be more difficult for you than they are now (99% chance of things improving, +/- .5%). Do you have to change your diet after removal? It's recommended. But it's probably what you're doing now (low fat) already. The trick is not going back to your old habits which got you in trouble in the first place.
Will having the GB cause you harm? For the moment, probably. (And by "probably" I mean "you're gambling.") Keeping a very strictly low-fat diet will help you out. In fact, it'll probably help you lose weight to have your GB for now: no better way to deter yourself from overeating and eating the wrong foods than horrible, horrible pain and possibly death. But if it's symptomatic, that sucker's gotta go. Deciding to keep it only means that it'll go later instead of sooner, probably by emergency surgery (which has a WAY longer recovery time and is considerably more likely to leave you with long-term problems, all the way up to a 3% chance).
Anyway, find yourself a good surgeon (interview multiple: trust me, it's worth it), one with a lot of experience (he should probably be older than you). You'll (most probably) be fine.
if the organ is not working correctly why keep it - by the time i got to the top of the UK waiting list, my gallbladder was showing signs of gangreen that could have left me fighting for my life in under 2 weeks (i was 34!!) at the end of the day this op saved my life - i was young by UK standards to have it!!
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