Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Atomic Spud: Minus One Gallbladder

Bad gallbladder! Bad!
Much to my consternation, the results of the HIDA scan I received in February came back normal. However, according to the doctors I've talked to (including Dr. Google), gallbladder disease can be missed by both a sonogram and a HIDA scan. Thus, I agreed to meet with the surgeon who removed my wife's gallbladder last year. During our discussion, I asked him how probable it was that I had gallbladder disease. He responded that the fact that the injection I received at the end of the HIDA scan recreated my the pain meant that there was an 80% chance that my gallbladder was to blame. Since 80% is a greater degree of certainty than many other things in life, I decided to have the (potentially) malfunctioning organ removed.

My wife and I showed up at the hospital yesterday late in the morning. Within a short period they had me in a gown, had an IV in my hand, and had shaved my stomach. Unfortunately, the hospital staff were so quick and efficient in getting me ready that they didn't realize that the surgeon wasn't scheduled to actually do the operation for another hour. This was exactly the opposite of my wife's gallbladder removal experience where we sat in the waiting room for over an hour and they didn't get her into the pre-op area until about ten minutes before the surgery.

This was only my second time under general anesthetic; the first was when I had my wisdom teeth removed. I was completely out mere minutes after the anesthesiologist injected the cocktail into my IV. The last thing I remember was thinking about how many light fixtures there were in the operating room. I woke up coughing since I'm still recovering from a head cold and because of the dryness of the oxygen they were feeding me. Thank goodness much of the initial painkillers were still in effect then; coughing became excruciating only a half hour later.

My wife is still laughing about my recovery from the anesthesia. She becomes extremely nauseous after receiving any strong anesthetic and has a difficult time keeping food or liquids down. In short, her recovery is extremely miserable. In my case, I seem to remember waving my hands around and rolling my head from side to side. Then I would touch my wife's face and tell her how pretty she was. My mother later said that if anesthesia works as a truth serum, I definitely passed the test.

Immediately after the surgery and prior to my waking up, the surgeon talked to my wife about how everything went. Thanks to the negative results of my earlier diagnostic tests, my greatest fear was that we had made an expensive and painful mistake and that the surgeon would tell my wife that mine was the healthiest gallbladder he had ever removed. Instead, he told her that he didn't find any gallstones and could find no explicit cause for my problems, but that he had found some gallbladder adhesions.

Not that kind of adhesion

While they usually aren't a direct cause of gallbladder-related pain, adhesions are typically indications that something is wrong. According to one source:
Adhesions can be formed due to surgery, injury, infection, or even radiation. However, they most commonly develop as a result of gallbladder inflammation caused by gallstones, termed cholecystitis. Gallbladder adhesions can also develop from gallbladder cancer, associated with gallstones; however, such cancer is rare. Some gallbladder adhesions have been found to be due to natural causes, such as congenital anomalies.


Gallbladder adhesions generally do not cause any pain or symptoms, but the conditions leading to the production of adhesions, such as gallstones and inflammation, can be extremely painful. Gallstones can produce biliary colic, or pain resulting from bile duct blockage by a gallstone. This pain is localized in the upper abdomen and will generally go away in a few hours once the gallstone passes out of the duct.
It's nice to know that there was almost certainly something wrong with my gallbladder and that all the pain and discomfort wasn't all in my head or due to some other as yet unknown cause.

Since the surgery I've been in a considerable, albeit manageable, amount of pain. The surgery injects a small quantity of air into the cavity to make the gallbladder more accessible, so a lot of the discomfort I'm having is due to the air bubbles that tend to float towards my right collar bone. Unfortunately, the medicine used to control the pain makes me feel lightheaded and spaced-out (that I was able to write this blog post at all is a miracle). I can't believe that there are drug-abusers who actually seek out such sensations. Although recovery from the surgery isn't exactly pleasant, I've actually had migraines that were worse.

1 comment:

  1. Get your gallbladder BACK! Take him to work in a jar and name him pinky.



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