What is the gallbladder? The gallbladder is a storage organ for bile. Bile is what helps you digest fat and fatty foods. When the gallbladder does not work well, or empties poorly, gallstones can develop. There are different types of gallstones, but most of the time gallstones are made because the gallbladder does not function well. If the gallbladder does not work well, then the bile become concentrated, super saturated, and the stones will crystallize out.
Gallstones can simply form and cause no symptoms. However, at any time a gallstone can migrate and cause severe symptoms.
Typical symptoms of a gallbladder that has problems include severe pain in the middle of the abdomen going to the back, or to the right side or the right shoulder. It can cause nausea and vomiting. Typically eating foods that are high in fat can cause symptoms to be worse.
Risk factors for gallstones to develop include obesity, genetics, and women who are in their 40’s. Certain diets can increase the risk of gallstones also. The LAP-BAND has never been shown to be an independent risk factor for gallstones- but the gastric bypass is.
The only treatment for symptomatic gallstone disease is to remove the gallbladder. For silent gallstones- they can be watched, but removal for patients who have other medical issues is advised. Please consult your surgeon.
Patients who have a LAP-BAND and develop gallstones should have their gallbladder removed – electively. It is easier to remove a gallbladder that is not infected, that has minimal risk of contamination of the device. While general surgeons can safely remove gallbladders, there is a risk to the LAP-BAND system of surgical injury, and having someone familiar with the system would be important. Some surgeons would choose to place a patient on antibiotics until the symptoms calm down and remove the gallbladder electively.
Some patients have their gallbladder removed at the time of their LAP-BAND and this has proven safe, but there is a small risk of contamination.
Should you develop gallstones and have a LAP-BAND, please know that your LAP-BAND surgeon is the safest one to remove your gallbladder and evaluate your band at the same time.
Dr Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson is a Phoenix weight loss surgeon. He encourages his lap-band surgery patients to learn to cook and adopt healthier lifestyles. His goal is to use culinary medicine to keep patients out of his operating room. in 2017, Dr. Simpson became a Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist.