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The Gallbladder

By Rick Northcraft, MSN RN FNP-C


Until now, you may have never thought of your gallbladder before. But here are good reasons why you should. A gallbladder attack is extremely painful. These attacks are much more likely to strike individuals who are either overweight or losing weight rapidly. Here’s what you need to know to stay out of harm's way.


The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. Its function is to release bile, a substance made by the liver, used in digestion to break down fat.

Obesity is a strong risk factor for gallstone formation, but so is rapid weight loss following bariatric surgery. Gallbladder disease can be very common after bariatric surgery. Abrupt changes in the diet and rapid weight loss that occurs after bariatric surgery, contribute to gallstone formation. It is estimated that as many as 38 percent of patients within six months of surgery develop gallstones, and up to 41 percent of such patients become symptomatic. Some common symptoms of gallstones or gallbladder attack include:

  • Intermittent or constant pain in the upper abdomen that starts suddenly and lasts from 30 minutes to many hours.
  • Abdominal pain or indigestion that occurs after eating foods high in fat.
  • Pain under the right shoulder or in the right shoulder blade.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should notify their bariatric program immediately. Treatment may be aimed at prevention. Any gallstones discovered during preoperative testing, may be treated with a 6 week course of medication- most commonly ursodiol, prescribed to prevent a gallbladder attack after surgery. After your bariatric surgery, if your gallbladder becomes inflamed, gallbladder surgery may be needed. You should consult your bariatric program if you have any questions or concerns.



Adair, J. (2011, May). Complications of Bariatric Surgery. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from