Obesity and Gallbladder Disease
As we know, obesity affects many organs around the body and can even lead to increases in certain cancers. The gallbladder is certainly not immune to obesity related complications. In fact, obesity is a leading factor in the risk for symptomatic gallstones. However, we are not only concerned about the gallstones themselves. Gallstones can also lead to the development of acute pancreatitis1 and in fact, patients who suffer from obesity and develop acute pancreatitis have increased severity of the disease.
Interestingly, the rapid weight loss many patients experience during significant dieting or even bariatric surgery can also increase the risk of the formation of cholesterol gallstones. However, many patients have their gallbladders removed during a bariatric procedure if symptomatic gallstones or gallbladder disease is found. Bariatric surgery patients should follow their surgeon’s post-operative dietary and exercise plan to lose weight in a measured manner and reduce the likelihood of gallstones. Staying well hydrated, eating a balanced diet according to the dietary plan and losing weight moderately and regularly is key to keeping gallstones at bay after bariatric surgery.
Obese patients who have their gallbladder removed due to underlying disease and not as part of a bariatric procedure, may experience a higher operative risk. Those carrying excess weight increased their risk of perioperative and postoperative complications significantly.
As with other organs and disease states, obesity seems to not only increase the likelihood of developing the condition or disease, but also seems to worsen these symptoms and effects. 1 It also can reduce the safety and effectiveness of the solution – in this case, surgery.
- ¹Bonfrate L, Wang DQ, Garruti G, Portincasa P. Obesity and the risk and prognosis of gallstone disease and pancreatitis. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Aug;28(4):623-35. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2014.07.013. Epub 2014 Jul 22. PMID: 25194180.