Gallbladder, Digestive or Acid Reflux Issues?

Gallbladder, Digestive or Acid Reflux Issues?

Jeff from Houston sent us this question: “I have had acid reflux for around 2 year’s now. I am not over weight 6’0 190 lbs. and I eat quite well, most of the time!

Nov 30th I had a serious Gallbladder attack, they say, after all kinds of tests!

Now they want to remove my Gallbladder.

My retired nurse Lady Partner says that she is not sure if I truly have a bad gallbladder or just a case of upper digestive acid reflux problems!

My question is-Should I go ahead and have my Gallbladder removed and hope for the best…… Or do I go get another opinion to see if maybe it’s NOT my gallbladder and maybe it’s something else.” Thank you.

Dear Jeff,

In general, you should never “go ahead and have surgery done and hope for the best”. Proper diagnosis guides effective treatment. Symptomatic gallstones and acid reflux disease may have some common symptoms. However, gallstone disease and GERD are two separate problems that can be easily differentiated using proper testing.

A gallstone attack is typically characterized by severe right upper quadrant abdominal pain following food intake. Pain radiates to the shoulder and is associated with nausea and vomiting. An acid reflux attack is typically characterized by burning pain behind the breastbone that radiates up towards the throat. Nausea and vomiting are much less common with acid reflux. Food regurgitation, bloating and repetitive belching as well as nighttime symptoms are prevalent.

Symptoms guide testing. For gallstone related symptoms a gallbladder ultrasound is typically ordered. Not all patients with gallstones, however, need their gallbladder removed. Indeed, most patients with gallstones are asymptomatic. Removing a normal gallbladder or one with asymptomatic gallstones does not resolve the problem and may exacerbate pre-existing acid reflux.

If you suffer from heartburn, food regurgitation… upper endoscopy with ambulatory pH testing is a reliable test to confirm and stage reflux. Endoscopy allows the acid reflux specialist to check for hiatal hernia, distal esophagitis, ulcer formation, Barrett’s esophagus and esophagus cancer. Ambulatory pH testing measures the amount of acid reflux into the esophagus over a period of 4 days. Concomitantly, Symptom correlation can be measured to further help elucidate the GERD related symptoms.

In conclusion, do not jump on any kind of surgery without making sure surgery is going to help resolve your symptoms. Experienced acid reflux specialists in Houston can help you differentiate gallstone disease from GERD and help you make informed decisions regarding best and safest treatment options for your condition.