Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it wise to remove a gallbladder with one gallstone because I am having hernia surgery as well?"
I have a small umbilical hernia that only gives me discomfort every once in awhile. I also have one gallstone that has given me 2 attacks, each a year apart (last one being a year ago). The doctor told me that although it is not urgent to have surgery on the hernia, it is probable that eventually I will need it, and if I plan to get pregnant again (I am a 34 yr old female - and I would like to keep that option open), I should have it done beforehand. And once I am already having surgery, to take out my gallbladder also, since the symptoms will only probably get worse in time. I am having a hard time deciding if this is truly necessary - I have only had 2 attacks in the past 3 years, to take out an organ just because I am being operated on? Please advise.
This is a difficult decision, and I understand your concerns about undergoing an additional procedure. I strongly encourage you to discuss the pros and cons of cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) at the same time of hernia repair with the surgeon. In general, the gallbladder stores bile, which is a substance produced by the body to help digest food. The gallbladder releases bile when it receives signals that it is required for digestion. The liver itself produces bile, so there is no impact on bile production in patients after gallbladder removal. In addition, bile is still secrete into the digestive tract after gallbladder removal. Therefore, patients experience no particular deficits after their gallbladder is removed. Gallbladder surgery is very common, and many general surgeons have performed hundreds if not thousands of these procedures. During an abdominal surgery, it is not standard practice to remove the gallbladder. However, given that you have already had two episodes of biliary colic (abdominal pain due to gallstones), it is reasonable for a surgeon to consider removing the gallbladder at the time of your other surgery. Your doctor is correct that you are at high risk for another episode of biliary colic as well as infections of the gallbladder, and this can be exacerbated by pregnancy. The presence of only a single stone on imaging does not reduce this risk. However, it is important to note that patients can still rarely develop obstructing gallstones after gallbladder removal. Given the multiple considerations in your case, I encourage you to further discuss this with the surgeon. It is also reasonable to obtain a second opinion in order to see if a second surgeon also recommends cholecystectomy.
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