My Decision To Keep My Gallbladder

I have made the calculated decision to keep my gallbladder. I tried very hard not to be foolish here. Gallstones are still quite mysterious to the medical industry. Exactly what causes them to form and how to get rid of them are not well understood. And importantly, while most medical procedures to eliminate gallstones have some success, the gallstones return about 50% of the time. About 80% of those people wind up having the gallbladder removed later. This is really the biggest argument for just removing the gallbladder up front and being done with it. You will probably hear your doctor and surgeon put this out to you right away as the main argument for surgery.

But 50% sounds like pretty good odds to me. Importantly, I am confident in proposing that most of those people were not willing to make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes to support a gallstone free life. I’m willing to wager that most were not up to the level of discipline and long term commitment required. I’m as lazy as the next person. I would love a magic bullet. But after extensive reading of testimonials from people who suffered long term complications and quality of life issues after gallbladder removal, I have decided for myself that the effort involved is worthwhile. While the going wisdom is that “you don’t need your gallbladder”, I believe this is a half-truth and should be questioned.

What are the Risks?

For me, this is the most important question to ask yourself, your doctor, your surgeon, your family, your friends. Everyone’s situation is different.

The primary consideration is risk of infection. One of the danger of leaving an attacking, gallstone ridden gallbladder in place is that it will become infected. Once infected, you will have to have an emergency removal. If you have any signs of infection, I don’t think keeping the gallbladder is even an option. So make sure you have a full blood screening done during diagnosis (multiple times if necessary) so you have a complete picture.

When I met with the surgeon, I prepared a list of questions. I highly recommend this whenever you consult with someone more knowledgeable than you are. It is easy for an expert to dominate a conversation. Their time is expensive. Write down your questions and be sure to ask to them. Here were a few of mine:

  • What chance do I have of developing an infection if I try to keep the gallbladder?
  • What are the top 3 things you recommend I do to keep my gallbladder?
  • Will you pissed at me if I show up in here 3 months later with an infected gallbladder?
  • What should I be alert for as a signal I should abandon my attempt to save my gallbladder?

The answers were surprising. Most importantly, the surgeon put the odds at 5% that I would develop an infection. This made it a no-brainer for me. So the real risk is my own personal comfort and the life destroying nature of the future attacks.

I’d like to remind you that up until I asked that very specific question, “What chance do I have of developing an infection if I try to keep the gallbladder?” not one person (doctor, nurse, surgeon) had even hinted that keeping the gallbladder was a realistic option.

So that’s it. Papa don’t preach, I’m keeping my gallby. Now it’s time for the hard work.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melinda
    May 29, 2013 @ 19:49:39

    How’s it going? I want to keep mine but I’m thinking of having a baby while I have multiple large stones!

    Reply

  2. Gloria
    May 31, 2013 @ 11:52:08

    Hi, I have had similar syptoms for the past 16 years. Went without any episodes until last summer after eating a delicious pizza late night. No symptoms (attacks) until a few weeks ago. Have had 3 since then. Can you please go into detail about where you began and what you did to help yourself get healed. Am a single mom can not afford to be off work for 3 to 8 weeks recovering. HELLLLLLLPPPPPP!!!!!!!

    Reply

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