Why Gallbladder Surgery? My Battle with Gallbladder Pain | Part 1

Emergency Gallbladder Surgery

I had a 2 cm gallstone stuck in the neck of my gallbladder which had been causing acute pain in my upper abdomen & back for the last few months, leading me to visit the ER three times in the last month alone, hence the need for emergency gallbladder surgery. Over the past few months, I experienced gallbladder attacks about 7-8 times. Unfortunately, I had no idea that the pain was related to gallbladder stones. Initially, we kept relating it to gastritis & treated it accordingly, but to no avail.

Before I share my story, let’s understand what is a gallbladder and how are gallstones formed. By sharing my experience, I hope to provide valuable information and support to those who may be going through similar experiences.

Understanding the Gallbladder and Gallstones

What is the Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small (approx. 7-10 cm long and 4 cm wide), pear-shaped organ, located in the upper right abdomen just below the liver. Its main function is to store bile which is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. When we eat a meal high in fats, the gallbladder releases this concentrated bile into the small intestine to help in the digestion of fats.

What is Gallbladder?

Source- radiopaedia.org

What are Gallstones?

Sometimes, due to some imbalance in the substances that form bile, the bile gets hardened and turns into pebble like deposits in the gallbladder. These gallstones can vary in size, ranging from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. They may not cause any problems or symptoms and can go unnoticed for years but they can cause significant issues if they block the bile ducts.

Types of Gallstones:

  • Cholesterol Stones: These are the most common types of gallstones usually yellow-green in colour. Cholesterol stones form when bile contains too much cholesterol and not enough bile acids to dissolve it, often due to liver dysfunction, bile stasis or dietary factors.
  • Pigment Stones: These are smaller and are made up of bilirubin usually dark brown or black in colour. Pigment stones form from excess bilirubin , often due to conditions like hemolytic anemia, liver dysfunction or biliary tract infections, which increase bilirubin levels in bile.
What are Gallstones? Types of Gallstones?

Source – mayoclinic.org

Symptoms and Complications of Gallstones

When a gallstone obstructs the flow of bile from the gallbladder or bile ducts, it can cause:

  • Severe pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Pain that radiates to the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion and bloating
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Fever and chills (in case of infection)

In case of complications, there can be inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), or infection of the bile ducts (cholangitis).

My Personal Experience with Gallbladder Pain

Now that we have an idea of what are gallstones and how they may lead to various symptoms; let me share my story, my battle with gallbladder pain which eventually lead me to get gallbladder surgery. Hopefully, this will help you in understanding gallbladder attack and what you can do in such cases.

Initial Symptoms and Misdiagnosis

I would get this sudden excruciating pain in my upper abdomen which radiated to my middle back. The strange thing about this pain was it felt similar to severe gas pain. My upper abdomen would get extremely bloated, it felt like a hard balloon being inflated in my abdomen. I could feel the pressure from the inside in my upper abdomen and at the back. While I was in pain, I couldn’t sit or lie down for more than a few minutes. I would also get continuous burps which would bring down the discomfort a bit but within minutes my abdomen would bloat again. Each gallbladder attack typically started at night around 10-11 pm and the pain lasted for 5-6 hours.

First major gallbladder attack

First major gallbladder attack

The first major incident occurred while I was on vacation in Sakleshpur (town in Karnataka), just a month after my hysterectomy surgery. Despite being in good health, the intense pain out of nowhere, came as a shock. That night, I endured 5 hours of agony before eventually ending up in the ER, where they treated me for gastritis pain before I passed out on the hospital bed.

It’s perplexing that the doctor didn’t suggest an ultrasound to check for gallstones that time. Thus, we also ignored it thinking it to be gastritis pain.

For the next 8-9 months, I experienced only minor discomfort & occasional indigestion. Then suddenly, in March this year, the severe pain returned. Again, I assumed it was gastritis and self medicated, but the pain persisted for 4-5 hours.

Repeated ER Visits and Correct Diagnosis

When the pain recurred later that month and did not subside with medication, I visited the ER again. This time, a doctor suggested that the pain might be related to gallstones and recommended an ultrasound.

That was the first time I heard about gallbladder pain.

We got the ultrasound done asap and that revealed a 2 cm gallstone stuck in the neck of my gallbladder. We then spent the next week undergoing further tests and consulting with doctors to understand my condition better. The gallstone was causing significant pain and blocking the flow of bile, which led to the recommendation for surgery. However, I couldn’t come to terms with that revelation, considering the plans we had made for the coming months. Hence, we decided to explore other options first.

The Path to Gallbladder Surgery

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

After the diagnosis, I learned about the different treatment options. Surgery was recommended as the best course of action but I wanted to try non-surgical methods first. In an attempt to avoid surgery, I made significant changes in my diet, eliminating fats, oils, caffeine, sweets and anything else that seemed bad for my health. Surprisingly, this new diet seemed to relieve my pain for over two weeks. I took it as a good sign and went on with our plan to drive to Delhi from Bangalore.

Now just to check if the gallbladder pain was still there, I resumed my normal diet after reaching Delhi.

A week later, the pain returned, lasting for 6 hours. This experiment made me conclude that the pain was indeed related to my diet. I switched back to the restrictive diet that had previously brought relief.

But then, what went wrong, leading me to undergo gallbladder surgery?


If you or someone you know is experiencing similar symptoms or has been diagnosed with gallstones, I encourage you to seek medical advice promptly. Understanding the condition and exploring treatment options early can make a significant difference in your health and quality of life.

Please share your thoughts, questions or experiences in the comments below. Your input can help others who are going through similar struggles. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will share what happened that led me to undergo surgery and my experience with the surgery itself, the recovery process and life after gallbladder removal.


This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla
in collaboration with Growing with Nemit.

 

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22 Comments

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    Preeti Chauhan June 1, 2024 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Neha, I am so sorry that you had to undergo this pain. By sharing your account of having undergone Cholecystectomy, you have indeed made the description of the disease and its symptoms more engaging. Your Son is looking so distressed seeing you in pain that my heart goes out to both of you, I am glad it is over for you.
    A note for the readers as a doctor- GB stones generally precipitate because of irregular meals especially late breakfasts and low-fiber diets, so diet plays a big role in causing the disease as well as triggering the symptoms and in the recovery too.

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    ambica gulati June 2, 2024 at 8:07 am - Reply

    We faced a terrible time last year with my sister going through intense pain. The hospital made a fool out of us, we spent over 1.25 lakh! And it wasn’t stones, just sludge. So, she has also made dietar changes now. and it has helped.

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    Pamela Mukherjee June 3, 2024 at 11:48 am - Reply

    My sister has gallbladder stones, and we got to know it now. We assumed that it was gastro-pain but after USG doctors suggested that we operate,. So, now we are planning to do the operation. Thanks for the guide. I will share this with my sister and go on a diet too.

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    Meetali June 3, 2024 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    A very helpful and potentially life saving post. I never knew so much about this silent threat and this has helped me recognize the symptoms and when to seek help

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    Harjeet Kaur June 3, 2024 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I hope you are feeling fine now, Neha. You have been through a traumatic time due to doctors’ negligence in diagnosing. I went through the opposite few months ago. I was suffering from severe gastric pain in my abdomen due to the side effect of my anxiety medication. I went to ER and the doctor there didn’t heed my pleas. He didn’t budge from his chair and declared it was kidney stones and he prescribed 5 injections. I was given 5 injections and sent home. By mid afternoon I was rolling on the floor again with severe pain.

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    Anjali Tripathi Upadhyay June 5, 2024 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Oh Neha, sorry for the pain you’ve gone through. seeing your son in so distressed must have been heartbreaking for both of ypu. glad that your pit of this pain, Three yewrs ago, I too experienced severe pain and went for the check up. I had a kideny stone and with proper diet amd fluids , it eventulayy disappeared. I can imagine the pain you must have gone through. Thanks for writing this which indeed will help others. Stay healthy always.

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    Chandrika June 5, 2024 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    A helpful article. Hope you have completely recovered.

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    Prasanna Raghavan June 5, 2024 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Neha, for sharing this detailed information for others’ understanding at a time when symptoms get misdiagnosed by the medical fraternity gets normalised. Fortunately, I have not faced any gallbladder abnormalities. While going through your details and the pictures, I couldn’t stop getting awed at what precision our physical body is constituted.

    I wish you got over the ailments and regained your health back to normalcy.

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    Manali June 5, 2024 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    Maybe if that doctor in Saklespur had done the ultrasound, the problem wouldn’t have escalated this much. Thank God you’re fine now as this seems to be a long and painful journey towards the surgery and healing

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    Samata June 5, 2024 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Neha, not even 5 days back back I heard about an exact same case of my husband’s collegue’s wife. THere also the doctor was treating her for 6-7 months for gastric problem and finally 7 days back detected with gallbladder stone. Thankfully stone is removed now and 15 days gall bladder will be removed. I really wonder what these doctors are doing these days. But you are a fighter and I am glad that you came up with this series which will help countless people with similar issues or symptops to avail prompt medical assistance from an experienced doctor.

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    Aditi Kapur June 6, 2024 at 9:31 am - Reply

    My father had his gallbladder removed after gallstones were found. He is on a restricted diet. I can understand how much pain and discomfort you must be going through. I hope things are better now.!

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    Felicia June 6, 2024 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    I hope you are feeling better now. The initial doctor should have atleast advised a USG just to have a clearer picture. It was very helpful to know so much about gall bladder issues. I will have to be on a watch out for my health. Sometimes even I get these slight pains which I have been ignoring as gas, but will need to still get a proper opinion.

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    Docdivatraveller June 6, 2024 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    I am so relieved that you are fine now. I am also scared of developing this as I am turning 36 now. in medicine we say 4 Fs: female, flatulent, forty, fat. any 2 of these makes you susceptible.

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    Caroline June 7, 2024 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    I hope you’re doing well now. Thanks for sharing so much in detail about Gallbladder. It’s a very informative post and you have explained it very well. Hope you have a smooth recovery and never face such pain in the future.

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    Madhu Bindra June 7, 2024 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    I hope you are feeling better. My sister-in-law had gallbladder stones and she used to be in so much pain. Thank you for sharing such an informative post. God bless you.

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    Isheeria June 7, 2024 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    This sounds so painful and i am glad to you found the cause and got it operated. I hope you are doing well and on your way to complete recovery.

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    Kaveri Chhetri June 7, 2024 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Wishing you a speedy recovery Neha… I am aware that the pain is excruciating as two of my sisters have had gall stones and surgeries too. I am glad that the worst is over for you. It’s really great that u have shared your experience and highlighted the importance of healthy eating to manage the condition.

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    Ritu Bindra June 7, 2024 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Glad you are feeling better now, Neha. A medical emergency while traveling is so scary. We have no idea about the kind of medical facilities and more importantly, access to our family doctor. The pic of Nemit hugging you breaks my heart. God bless him.

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    Sabrina June 8, 2024 at 5:58 am - Reply

    gallbladder surgery sounds like a horrendous process. I admire your strength.

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    Varsh June 8, 2024 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Oh Neha, I’ve heard about gall bladder stones but didn’t know they can be so painful. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all this just after going through another surgery. I sincerely hope you’re better now and will take very good care of yourself, esp now that you know that right diet is crucial. This reinstates the need for a second opinion at times as well.

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    Shifali June 11, 2024 at 12:56 am - Reply

    I am so sorry to know that you undergone such a painful surgery. Despite facing all this pain, you showed courage to help others in pain. this is really praise worthy. I hope for your good health.

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    Priya Singh June 13, 2024 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    My brother had it and we were so confused as to what should be done. The 15 year old Priya would have found this very helpful.

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