Help! I Still Have Gallbladder Pain After Removal.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this – “I got my gallbladder removed, even though I didn’t want to, but I’m still having gallbladder pain after removal.” “They told me the surgery would fix it, but…” Yup.  Sometimes the surgery doesn’t actually make the pain disappear, so now what?  Good news, there is a lot you can do about this, but it helps to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

How Could I still Have Gallbladder Pain After Removal?

There can be many causes for this, but the simple version is that typically when the gallbladder is removed, all or part of the duct work stays behind. Therein lies the typical culprit.

All those skinny little tubes are ripe for problems that can lead to gallbladder pain after removal. GallbladderAnatomy.png by LukesAnatomy (talk); conversion to SVG by Angelito7 (talk) - GallbladderAnatomy.png, CC BY-SA 3.0,

All those skinny little tubes are ripe for problems that can lead to gallbladder pain after removal. GallbladderAnatomy.png by LukesAnatomy (talk); conversion to SVG by Angelito7 (talk) – GallbladderAnatomy.png, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here are the four “S’s” of gallbladder pain after removal:

  1. Stones – Sometimes there are still gallstones, or small calcified spots left in the remaining ducts or even in the ducts from the liver that head towards the (now missing) gallbladder. These hurt just as much as the stones in the gallbladder itself.
  2. Sludge – There can be sludge still in the remaining ducts, even if the stones are gone.
  3. Steatosis – If there have been gallbladder issues for a long time sometimes the liver becomes fatty. Fatty liver, also called “hepatic steatosis” can have no symptoms, or it can feel a whole lot like gallbladder pain – especially the low-grade, chronic type that doesn’t flare up strongly but doesn’t go away either.
  4. Something else – Remember you can have fleas and ticks on the same dog.  Remember gallbladder, and your other internal organs, don’t have sensory nerves the way your fingertips do because you’re not supposed to be reaching out and touching anything with your gallbladder. This is part of why people can feel gallbladder pain so differently – for some it’s classically under the right rib cage, for some it’s between the shoulder-blades, for some it’s on the left side, for some it’s just nausea and for some it mimics a heart attack. It can happen that you have “gallbladder pain,” the doctor finds gallstones, you remove the gallbladder and there’s still something else that was actually causing the pain to begin with.

Now it feels like we’re back at square one, right? You did the surgery, but the problem is the same.  So now what?

Stopping Gallbladder Pain After Surgery

  1. Talk to Your Doctor. Step 1 really should be a follow up ultrasound to see if there are any stones remaining. This will give you a good idea of what you’re working with.
  2. Work on Gallbladder Sludge. This is the most common cause of ongoing pain and working on cleaning out your remaining sludge will help clear those ducts and also helps with a gentle liver detox. Really working on this should bring improvement within a month. If it doesn’t, or if your symptoms get worse then skip straight to step 4. There’s a whole post on supporting your gallbladder as well as one on liver health below.
  3. Give your Liver Some LoveThis can be done at the same time as step 3 – each one helps the other so that you get the best results if you’re supporting your liver and clearing out sludge at the same time.
  4. Get Your Doctor on Board. You have lots of vital organs in your abdomen and we don’t really want to see any of them in trouble.  If your symptoms are not getting better, if they’re getting worse, or if your gut is telling you that there’s more going on then talk with your doctor. There can be hernias, pancreatitis, infections, tumors and other problems that your body can only tell you about in so many ways so don’t ignore symptoms just because you got your gallbladder removed.

It can be easy to get discouraged, but you’re still on the right track. The surgery sometimes isn’t an instant fix, but you’re still moving forward – just follow the steps and trust your gut. If you feel like there’s something bigger going on then talk to your doctor. Otherwise give your liver and ducts a little pampering and you’ll be good as new in no time.

4 thoughts on “Help! I Still Have Gallbladder Pain After Removal.

  1. Ann Hackett

    I had my gall bladder removed nearly one year ago, I had a really bad attack yesterday how can I avoid this in the future.

    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Ann,
      Hopefully you’ve talked with your doctor about it and had a repeat ultrasound – that can show whether or not there are any ducts left over with stones lodged in them. If nothing shows up on the ultrasound, then it comes down to helping your body clear out the gallbladder sludge. Start with the simple things like lecithin (read this post), and other basic steps for sludge (read this post too). If you’re doing all the gallbladder things already and it isn’t working then it’s a good time to schedule a consult with someone who specializes in gallbladder sludge. Look for someone locally and if there isn’t anybody, then I can also consult remotely. I hope this helps!

  2. Neurilene

    Hi Dr. Amy,

    I had my gallbladder removed two weeks ago and I feel that I need help with digestion. I am very cautious about what I eat but I feel that my digestion is worse than when I had my gallbladder. Can you recommend anything to improve digestion?

    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Neurilene,
      I don’t know much about your situation, but have you tried bitters? They’re a very basic aid to digestion and can help with a number of different problems. It might be a good place to start. If you don’t find them helpful then try talking with a natural practitioner in your area – it might be a post-gallbladder removal problem, but it might also be something else. Let me know how you do with the bitters!

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