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WHEN TO HAVE GALL BLADDER REMOVED?

If you have belly pain or nausea after you eat, particularly after eating fatty foods, you may have a diseased gall bladder. Doctors are less eager than previously to remove gall bladders because they can treat most cases with aspirin and low-fat diets.

Your liver removes breakdown products of metabolism from your bloodstream and concentrates them into a fluid called bile/ which is stored in a muscular balloon called the gall bladder. When you eat, the gall bladder contracts and squeezes bile from the gall bladder/ along a tube leading into the intestines. Bile enters the intestines to help break down food into basic building blocks so it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Gall stones prevent bile from going from the gall bladder into the intestines. You need to have your gall bladder removed if you have frequent or severe pain or suspected cancer. Removing your gall bladder may increase your chances of getting colon cancer (1,2), but having gall stones also increases your chances of suffering gall bladder cancer (3). Normally, bile enters your intestines only when you eat, but after you have your gall bladder removed, bile drips into your intestines 24 hours a day. Bile causes cancer, so the increased exposure of your colon to bile may increase your chances of getting colon cancer. (1,2)

Many people with gall stones do not need surgery. One adult aspirin a day can help the gall bladder to clear bile and prevent pain (4). A low-fat diet will also help to decrease your chances of forming gall stones. See report #G116.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

1) International Journal of Cancer 1993;53:735-739.

2) F Novell, A Moral, S Pascual, M Trias. Is There a Relationship Between Cancer of the Colon and Gallstones? Revista Espanola de Enfermedades Digestivas 87: 4;APR 1995:294-297.

3) WA Zatonski, AB Lowenfels, P Boyle, P Maisonneuve, HBB Demesquita, P Ghadirian, M Jain, K Przewozniak, P Baghurst, CJ Moerman, A Simard, GR Howe, AJ Mcmichael, CC Hsieh, AM Walker. Epidemiologic aspects of gallbladder cancer: A case-control study of the SEARCH Program of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 89: 15 (AUG 6 1997):1132-1138.

4) A Das, SS Baijal, VA Saraswat. Effect of aspirin on gallbladder motility in patients with gallstone disease: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of two dosage schedules. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 40: 8 (AUG 1995):1782-1785.

Reported 9/1/97; Checked 9/5/05

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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