Human Anatomy – Gallbladder

human-anatomy-gallbladderBile, a substance manufactured in the liver, is used by the body to digest fats and absorb them into the bloodstream. It is stored in the organ known as the gallbladder.

Located just below the liver, the gallbladder appears like a deflated balloon after a meal. Before meals, bile blows the gallbladder up, which then looks like a pear.

Nerves signal the gallbladder whenever the body needs bile. The bile then drains through ducts onwards to the small intestine.

Gallbladder diseases and conditions

Due to unknown causes, bile can solidify in the gallbladder, creating gallstones (cholelithiasis). Fortunately, gallstones are not always harmful.

However, gallstones can be painful and are known to cause inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). If they obstruct the pancreatic ducts, gallstones can lead to pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas.

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Chances are very slim, but the gallbladder may also be afflicted with cancer. Since it shows only a few symptoms at first, gallbladder cancer is often discovered only in its advanced stages.

Treating gallbladder conditions

While bile is very vital, the gallbladder itself is not. Surgical removal of the gallbladder would not significantly affect patients, especially those who lead a healthy lifestyle.

Gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy is the treatment of choice for gallbladder cancer. Either the surgeon uses traditional surgery with one large cut or the newer method with several small incisions. After surgery, the patient may undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Scores of doctors are using machine-generated shockwaves to shatter gallstones, in a procedure called extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy. For patients with relatively more manageable gallstones, they may take ursodeoxycholic acid or Chenix orally.

Doctors can also dissolve gallstones by way of contact solvent dissolution. An uncommon procedure, contact solvent dissolution involves injecting the gallbladder with gallstone-melting chemicals.

Cholecystitis may come with an infection. In this case, the patient should follow an antibiotic prescription.

Tests for gallbladder conditions

Ultrasounds, the use of high-frequency sound waves to see images of organs, are recommended tests for detecting gallstones and the gallbladder in general. In one variation of this method, an endoscope is fitted with an ultrasound probe and introduced to the intestines via the mouth. Endoscopic ultrasound, as this test is called, can spot pancreatitis and choledocholithiasis.

Abdominal X-rays may also be used to look for gallstones. However, they cannot effectively detect gallbladder disease.

Human Anatomy Series NavigationHuman Anatomy – LiverHuman Anatomy – PancreasHuman Anatomy – Spleen

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