What is the Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small-sized organ under the liver. Its purpose is to store bile, a fluid made by the liver to metabolize the fats we consume during meals. Bile is also known as gall, hence the name of the organ. The gallbladder is pear-shaped and changes in size based on the amount of bile being stored at any given time.
As food passes through the stomach and into the small intestine, the gallbladder secretes this bile into the common bile duct, a tube spanning the liver and the small intestine. This secretion is a direct response to food entering the GI tract. The gallbladder acts as a sort of pump, pushing the bile though the ducts that connect it to the small intestine. As the bile mixes with the food, it breaks down the fats into a form that is more easily absorbed into the blood stream as nutrition.
Do I need a Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is not an essential organ to life. As such, most patients have no problems whatsoever after a gallbladder removal. Indeed, cholecystectomies have become a routine procedure and many people live without their gallbladder. After the procedure, bile will still be transported from the liver to the small intestine, but the gallbladder will no longer be available for storage.
A minority of patients will experience some short or longer-term discomfort associated with the removal of the gallbladder. For most, this is a temporary result of additional bile flowing into the small intestine causing GI issues. These possibilities should be discussed with your physician.