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What is a gallbladder and why is mine “attacking” me?

By: Troy Kerner, D.O.
General Surgery


The gallbladder is a small fluid filled sac located in the right upper part of the abdomen. The fluid inside the gallbladder is bile produced by the liver. The bile is pushed into the intestine after you eat a high fat or large meal. The bile then helps your body breakdown and absorb the fatty foods.

A gallbladder “attack” is usually caused by blockage of the gallbladder by gallstones when the gallbladder tries to push out the bile. A patient experiencing a gallbladder attack usually feels pain in the upper abdomen and it can radiate to the right ribcage area and around to the shoulder blade area of the back. Nausea and vomiting can also occur. The pain typically begins 1 to 2 hours after eating but can also wake you up from sleep late at night. The pain can last 20 minutes to a few hours (biliary colic) or can last for more than 6 to 8 hours (acute cholecystitis). Pain lasting for many hours usually requires a visit to the emergency room and can require admission to the hospital and treatment with antibiotics and possibly surgery.

Someone that is having intermittent symptoms, as described above, should have an ultrasound of the gallbladder to check for gallstones. This test is frequently performed by the emergency room in cases of persistent pain or can be ordered by a primary care doctor or surgeon. Other medical conditions such as heart-related pain and stomach issues also need to be excluded.

If gallbladder symptoms are suspected, the treatment options include avoiding fatty foods forever, or having surgery to remove the gallbladder and gallstones. The surgery is commonly performed laparoscopically, through 3 or 4 small incisions rather than one larger incision. The smaller incisions allow you to go home the same day and patients usually require less pain medication after the procedure. Many patients feel well enough to be driving and performing average activities within 4 to 5 days.

Lower Bucks Hospital’s Department of General Surgery is available for office visits using COVID-19 safety guidelines. The operating room is open and available utilizing pre-operative COVID-19 testing and safety and sanitizing protocols for everyone’s protection. Patients coming into the office are required to wear a mask and hand sanitizer is available in every room.

Dr. Troy Kerner, D.O.

General Surgery

Board certified in General Surgery with 20 years of experience. Over 1,000 gallbladder surgeries performed and more than 2,000 laparoscopic surgeries for gallbladder disease, hernias and intestinal disorders.

To schedule an appointment, call 215-891-1430 or visit us online