Gregory Campbell, M.D.
Trauma & General Surgeon
North County Trauma Associates
I’ve heard that gallstones is a serious condition. How do I know if my abdominal pain is gallstones or just indigestion from eating that giant burrito?
Answer: If you experience frequent indigestion, especially in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen, have your doctor check it out. Indigestion is a primary symptom of gallstones and is also associated with other serious conditions such as a heart attack or GERD – gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease. A medical evaluation can determine if you need further treatment or if you should avoid fatty meals that irritate your digestive system.
Acute cholecystitis or gallstones is very common in America because of our high fat diet. You are at greater risk of developing gallstones if you are older, female or overweight. Prevention includes maintaining a healthy weight, being active and eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
The gallbladder aids digestion by storing and releasing bile that is produced in the liver. When gallstones form they can block the bile duct, causing significant pain along with fever, nausea and vomiting. Jaundice or dark, brown urine indicate complications such infection or inflammation and should be evaluated promptly by your physician.
Unfortunately, many patients with gallstones wait until symptoms are very uncomfortable and then come to the Emergency Department for help. Postponing a thorough medical evaluation may result in complications making treatment more difficult.
Initial diagnosis includes a liver function analysis and physical exam. Ultrasound and CT scans provide diagnostic imagines that help plan treatment.
The most effective surgical treatment is laparoscopic cholecystectomy in which the gallbladder is removed through four small incisions in the abdomen. Typically, patients return home later the same day or the day following surgery, experience less postoperative pain and quickly resume normal activities.