Most people have gallstones and do not even know it. That is the most common presentation. No symptoms. However, if you know you have gallstones, chances are you are familiar with the abdominal pain and discomfort associated with gallbladder disease. When symptoms of gallstones occur, they are often called an "attack" because they occur suddenly. Some gallstones are small enough to be passed without symptoms or attacks. If there is significant pain or discomfort, surgery may be needed.
As a general surgeon who sees on average at least 10 patients with gallbladder disease or gallstones per week, Adena Health System’s Dr. Brandon Keys advises patients undergoing these types of attacks to seek medical attention sooner rather than later.
“If you are experiencing gallstone symptoms, it’s best to see a surgeon as soon as possible,” he suggests. “Even if there is no need for surgery in the beginning, it is beneficial to get established with a surgeon should future attacks occur. The physician-patient relationship would be established and any future occurrences would allow us to get right to the heart of the matter – helping the patient feel better.”
Usually, gallstones can lead to pain in the upper right abdomen and commonly occurs when foods that are high in fat are consumed.
According to Keys, symptoms of gallstones can vary. “For patients that are diabetic, or even women typically over the age of 40, they may believe they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack,” he explains. “However, if it is confirmed that the patient is not undergoing a heart attack and if there are indeed stones, then I would regard it as a gallbladder attack.”
Other symptoms include:
- Dark urine
- Stomach pain
The most common treatment for gallstones is gallbladder surgery, also called a cholecystectomy, during which your entire gallbladder is removed. Keys claims the vast majority of gallbladder surgeries performed today are done minimally invasively, which allows surgeons to perform procedures, like your cholecystectomy, using smaller incisions.
Benefits of robotic-assisted surgery include:
- Less pain
- Less blood loss
- Less scarring
- Shorter hospital stays
- Faster recovery
- Fewer post-operative complications and infections
Adena offers robot-assisted surgery, which Dr. Keys utilizes in the majority of his gallbladder procedures.
“Typically, gallbladder surgery takes about 45-60 minutes,” says Keys. “Recovery time can vary, but usually the overwhelming majority of my patients tell me they feel back to 100% within a week, without any need for pain medication beyond Tylenol or Ibuprofen.”
If you have questions about gallstones or gallbladder disease, call 740-779-4550 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Keys. For more information on gallbladder surgery and other robotic-assisted surgery options at Adena, visit adena.org/surgery.