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Gallbladder Disease

Conditions and treatments

Most of us don’t give our gallbladder a second thought – until it starts to hurt. But illness or injury can cause lots of pain in this small but significant organ in your digestive system.

Since symptoms of gallbladder issues may mimic other problems in your digestive tract, our gastroenterologists are trained to go the extra mile to detect and treat underlying issues such as gallstones, inflammation, as well as rare disorders including bile duct cancers.

Our treatments include scans, endoscopy, ultrasounds, and minimally invasive surgery procedures.

We also perform a cholecystectomy – surgery to remove the gallbladder – as well as biliary bypasses. No matter the treatment, our compassionate team will stand with you every step of the way to help you find relief and stay on the path to long-term healing.

Gallbladder: Did you know?

Lee Health gastroenterologists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating medical problems that affect the gallbladder and bile ducts, including:

  • Cholecystitis is the formal name for gallbladder inflammation. It can come on suddenly (acute cholecystitis) or occur repeatedly over a long period of time (chronic cholecystitis). It usually occurs after a bile duct becomes blocked, causing bile to build up inside the gallbladder.
  • Gallstones are hard, stone-like masses that form inside the gallbladder or bile ducts. While some gallstones are no larger than a grain of sand and cause few if any problems, they can grow large enough to block a bile duct.
  • Cholangitis, an infection in a tube called the common bile duct, which carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder.
  • Bile duct cancer or cholangiocarcinoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in one of the bile ducts. While it is a slow-growing cancer, it is often not diagnosed until it is at an advanced stage.
  • Gallbladder cancer is a rare form of cancer that begins in the gallbladder. Because it causes few symptoms early on, it is often not diagnosed until it is at an advanced stage.

Gallbladder disease diagnosis and screening

Lee Health doctors use a variety of tests and procedures to diagnose gallbladder disease, including one or more of the following:

  • Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan is an imaging procedure that takes pictures of your liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and small intestine. During the exam, we injuect a harmless radioactive solution into your arm. Special cameras monitor the flow of this solution as it makes its way from your liver to your gallbladder and into your small intestine.
  • Endocscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP is an endoscopic procedure that allows doctors to examine the bile ducts. We use this test to diagnose bile duct cancer, gallbladder cancer and gallstones.
  • Endoscopy a procedure that allows doctors to look inside your body with the aid of a tiny camera attached to a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope. Small instruments or devices can be attached to the endoscope, allowing it to be used for both diagnosis (such as taking a tissue sample during a biopsy) and treatment (for example, to remove tumors).
  • Endoscopic ultrasound or EUS combines endoscopy and ultrasound to capture high quality images of the digestive tract.
  • Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows doctors to examine an organ, such as the gallbladder, up close.

Gallbladder disease treatment at Lee Health

  • Cholecystectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder. The surgery can be performed using either traditional or minimally invasive techniques.
  • Biliary bypass is a surgical procedure that treats gallbladder or bile duct cancer, particularly if a tumor is blocking the small intestine (causing bile to build up within the gallbladder). During the procedure, a surgeon creates a detour, or “bypass,” around the blockage, which reroutes the bile so it can flow into the small intestine.

If you have gallbladder cancer or bile duct cancer, your gastroenterologist will work closely with Lee Health cancer specialists to create a customized treatment plan.