Symptoms came on suddenly for Kelli Crowley, like most people with gallbladder disease she had no idea what was going on insider her.
“All I knew I had really intense pain and it came on like turning on a light switch. It was just all of a sudden and it was very intense,” says Crowley.
Our gallbladder stores bile, used to digest fats. An imbalance of chemicals often causes gallstones to form. Most times they go unnoticed.
“A huge number of people, 20 million, are actually walking around the US with gallstones,” says Dr. Barry Haicken, general surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.
Gallstones are frequently picked up during a routine x-ray or unrelated tests. Once someone experiences pain, it’s generally a one-way path to surgery.
“About a million gallbladders a year are removed because they become symptomatic. So when stones form they are kind of a time bomb. Once they become a problem and symptomatic it’s probably time to get the gallbladder out,” says Dr. Haicken.
And that’s what brought Crowley and Dr. Haicken together. He performed laparoscopic surgery to remove her diseased gallbladder.
“There are three incisions of a quarter inch size and one incision that’s a half inch size. Instruments have been perfected so we now can remove the gallbladder in about 45 minutes,” says Dr. Haicken.
“I was in and out in no time. I didn't suffer afterward. I felt it was really simple. It wasn't the old-fashioned way where they cut you wide open,” says Crowley.
Her gallbladder gone, her symptoms are gone forever too.
“Your body does very nicely without the gallbladder. And the digestion is essentially normal,” says Dr. Haicken.